It seems like a lot of people I know don’t like KISS. Because of this, I can’t help but suspect that I may be surrounded by communist subversives. Of course it could be that I grew up with KISS (and Gene Simmons in particular) as a household name, being introduced to them by my uncle at a very young age. Or it could be that most people I know for some reason don’t think that the following things are awesome: blood, fire, makeup, battle-axe shaped bass guitars and catchier-than-herpes nuggets of 3 minute, 3 chord pop rock.
I’m guessing it has something to do with the later. KISS are not a heavy metal band, or even a hard rock band. KISS is a pop band. A mindless sugar-rush of sweet, tasty choruses and juvenile lyrics wrapped in the aforementioned fire, blood and makeup. Once you have that in mind, it might make it easier to appreciate them for what they really are. “Calling Dr. Love”, “God of Thunder” and “Deuce” aren’t fucking high art or rocket science, they are the musical equivalent of a bag of Halloween candy. Anyone assessing KISS based on any other criteria needs to get it the fuck together.
(above: “God of Thunder” my favorite KISS song and the closest they ever got to heavy metal in my opinion)
And although KISS might not be a heavy metal band by any stretch of the imagination, they are arguably the second most important band to influence heavy metal after Black Sabbath. Their theatricality/imagery, catchiness and swagger, (not to mention the invention of what would later come to be known as corpsepaint) had wide-ranging and lasting effects on everyone from GWAR to the late Dimebag Darrell to the black metal scene in its entirety. Bands ranging from White Zombie (“God of Thunder”) to the Melvins (“Goin’ Blind”) to Nirvana (“Do You Love Me”) and beyond have all seen fit to cover tunes penned by the grease-paint adorned quartet. And let us not forget about the monumentally atrocious Kiss My Ass tribute album, featuring such artists as Garth Brooks (or is that Chris Gaines) and uh… The Gin Blossoms.
(above: “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” aka KISS’ “disco song” and also one of their most successful hits. Hey, I dislike disco as much as the next metalhead (except for the Bee Gees, those dudes were hella sick), but try to tell me this isn’t a catchy lil’ fucker of a song.)
Of course along with KISS’ imagery came accusations of satanism and other such nonsense. According to some members of the god squad, KISS was an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service. I’m not quite sure how anyone could listen to “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” or “Hard Luck Woman” and get satanism out of it. Or maybe anyone that wears face paint is automatically a satanist in the eyes of jesus freaks. Watch out for Bozo kids, he’s going to see that you roast in the fiery pits of hell! But I digress, the “controversy” brought on in typical fashion by the lord’s most ignorant followers only helped make KISS that much more appealing to rebellious youth, even if they were really singing about sex instead of satan. Come to think of it, that was probably even more appealing.
So maybe now those of you that have previously scoffed at my enjoyment of KISS have a better understanding of my reasons for being a fan. Sure, they have made numerous missteps, such as taking the makeup off, firing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and releasing tons of clunkers in the song department (I cannot comment on their latest album as yet), not to mention basically becoming nothing more than money-grubbing media/merchandising whores. But again, KISS is a pop band, so things like artistic integrity and cred should be viewed as non-issues. Fun haters be damned, I’ll be cranking “Cold Gin” while you’re bitching about what a terrible band KISS is for all of the wrong reasons. KISS my ass, indeed.