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-ree day. 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 weird otherwise. 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.
In conclusion, to understand why KISS really ought to fall under the Abattoir's mighty blade, look no further than a Simmons quote from earlier this year that appeared in that balls-to-the-wall rock mag known as Forbes magazine:
"You go to Burger King and know you can have it your way. That's all you need to know."
Thanks, Gene. KISS is like Burger King. Cheap, plentiful, appealing to a segment of the population that doesn't know any better. And fucking terrible for you. -- Brian McManus
Between the Cracks
Band name: Duck Duck Goose
Web site: www.myspace.com/duckduckgooseband
Personnel: Elaine Michelle Greer (guitar, keyboard, vocals); "Jaime" Andy Monteil (drums).
Native or transplant? Duck Duck Goose is from Houston, Texas. However, Jaime wanted to add that he is originally from Kansas City, Kansas.
What's in a name, particularly yours? Duck Duck Goose was our favorite childhood game. Actually, the name came on a bit randomly. It started out as "The Duck." Not sure if I could explain that one either, though.
When did you form? We formed a few months ago. Jaime is in several other Houston-area bands, such as Chim Charoo, King Louie and the Swingin' Monkeys, and the Skandals. Elaine didn't perform much but just wrote a lot of songs in her room. Then Duck Duck Goose formed, and Jaime made Elaine's songs take flight with his soulful beats.
Releases/discography: The Duck Duck Goose self-titled EP...we're working on a lot of stuff right now.
Who or what do you think you sound like? Folk/pop.
What are some of your noteworthy recent feats? Jaime recently got promoted from cook to assistant manager at Mr. Gatti's pizza!
What albums have had the biggest impact on you? Jaime: And Yet And Yet by Do Make Say Think; Elaine: Advisory Committee by Mirah and anything by Bob Dylan...
What artists have had the biggest impact on you? Jaime: the Slackers, Neil Peart, Marvin Gaye; Elaine: Bob Dylan, Rilo Kiley, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mirah and a lot of folk and lady musicians.
How do you pay the bills? What is your day job? Jaime works at Mr. Gatti's pizza, and sometimes at the Lighthouse of Houston. Elaine makes smoothies.
Finish this sentence: If I didn't have to worry about money, I'd... Jaime: swim, all day, in a big blue swimming pool; Elaine: probably have a lot of dogs, all pugs, and live somewhere really nice by the beach.
Finish this sentence: I'd rather be... Jaime: touring with Jonathan Richman or running my own pizza place/music venue; Elaine: touring at all, or eating/ sleeping/relaxing.
Who would play you in the screen adaptation of your life? Jaime: Fabio; Elaine: Maybe Queen Latifah, 'cause she's sassy.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Jaime: In South America, playing calypso music; Elaine: Probably still in Houston.
What's the biggest misconception about you or your band? That we rock too hard! (Seriously.)
Give us a random factoid about yourself: Jaime thought it might be important to point out that he has a dimple in one of his ears.
Weezer or Winger? Winger.
Jay-Z or Z-Trip? Z-Trip.
Football or foosball? Foosball!
Parting shot? Jaime says: "Live Long and Prosper."
See them at: Super Happy Fun Land, 2610 Ashland, on Wednesday, May 10.
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