By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
By Craig Hlavaty
I'll admit it: On paper the idea is pretty damn solid. Four guys, inspired by the New York Dolls but too ugly to pull off the whole androgyny thing, decide instead to dress like Japanese Kabuki warriors, spit blood, breathe fire and pen songs about staying up all night and partying ev-ah-reeday. No doubt, it's a win-win proposition. That is, it would be if we lived in a vacuum.
In real time, in the real world, KISS is one of the lamest, most heinous and uninspired atrocities ever unleashed on that unsuspecting dame called Music. It can even be argued that KISS leader Gene Simmons is the biggest schmuck who ever strapped on a four-string bass, ax-shaped or otherwise (admittedly, there exist plenty of lamer D-bags who've strapped on six-string basses). And this is on top of being responsible for some of the weightiest musical crimes ever perpetrated.
Oh, where to start?
How about with a single word: marketing. There is more superfluous KISS crap on the market than a Backstreet Boy could shake an acid-washed leg at. In fact, where do you think the whole concept of boy-band merchandising came from? Today you can put a KISS coffin on your KISS credit card after brushing the taste of KISS "Destroyer" wine out of your mouth with a KISS toothbrush. There's a KISS Babies cartoon in the works for the kids, a KISS Broadway play, a KISS casino and even KISS-OPOLY the board game.
The discovery that music could cross over and pilfer money from other markets brought an evil new personality to Music's table: the numbers dweeb, that label accountant who made it the industry standard to put the bottom line above all else. In short, it flooded the biz with what could be aptly described as "Simmons-esque" music executives: the types who need to know that a band's lunch box will sell as fiercely as its first single.
Don't kid yourself, kids: This awful development has been largely a KISS creation. Simmons has come to fancy himself such a brand development tycoon that he's begun his own marketing consultation firm (in partnership with Pee-wee Herman's former manager Richard Abramson) to help companies exploit bigger shares of their particular market. His first client is the Indy Racing League, whose trouncing at the hands of NASCAR has it crawling desperately into Simmons's vulturelike grasp.
Uncle Gene's first bit of advice: "Simplify your message." It's one that has served KISS well.
As I said, the concept of KISS is pretty foolproof. Big riffs, big explosions, spouts of blood, kick-ass outfits -- there will always be a sizable chunk of the music-listening public that will be drawn to all of these. The same mook who crushes spent beer cans into his forehead, cries when KLOL is turned into a reggaetn station and is one devil-horn hand gesture away from full-blown carpal tunnel syndrome will always pledge his undying and misguided allegiance to KISS and bands of their ilk. It would be fucking weirdotherwise. All KISS had to do to justify everything was to mean it. They clearly don't. It's all an act, a diversionary tactic to pillage your paycheck.
I can hear it already: "What about the music? You haven't even mentioned the music!"
Not yet, no. After all, it's entirely appropriate that an argument about KISS and their megawatt suckage begin not with the actual music they make. With KISS, music was never the emphasis. Bagging trim, making money and developing merchandise all have taken priority over songwriting, let alone musicianship.
And let's face it, aside from "Rock 'n Roll All Nite," "Love Gun" and "Shout It Out Loud," what KISS song ever even punched its way out of the paper bag of complete and utter mediocrity? "Beth"? Please. "Lick It Up"? I'd take Poison in the Bad '80s Glam Department over a makeup-less KISS any day of the week. At least Bret Michaels drank. Both Simmons and Paul Stanley (KISS's only other full-timer) are both sanctimonious, teetotaling devotees of sobriety.
Which is more proof that KISS, while talking a big Rock 'n Roll game, is faking it; they are bad pretenders to a throne they were only ever interested in robbing.
The most glaring example of KISS's Rock 'n Roll lifestyle-posing is Gene's puffed-up sexual conquest statistics.
On a recent VH1 special, Gene was forced to admit that, no, he really hadn't slept with all the women he pretended to over the years. It was all part of his typical-and-tired rock star preening, a marketing choice that backfired when his children saw a televised interview wherein daddy bragged ad nauseam about all the gunch he'd burrowed through over the years. "Is it true?" they asked, concerned about what it might do to their mother's mental health if the word got out (Simmons has lived for a quarter-century with B-movie actress Shannon Tweed, with whom he's fathered two children). It wasn't. "Don't you think that's disrespectful to Mom?" the tykes asked. Yes, it was. So he went and admitted to his kids and the camera that it was all a sham. Now the makeup was off in more ways than one.
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