Friday, June 26, 2009

496. Destroyer- Keep It Simple Stupid.



Album: Destroyer.
Artist: KISS
Year: 1976
Genre: Heavy metal/Hard Rock/High Silliness.
Tracks.
1. Detroit Rock City
2. King of the Night Time World
3. God of Thunder
4. Great Expectations
5. Flaming Youth
6. Sweet Pain
7. Shout It Out Loud
8. Beth
9. Do You Love Me?
10. Untitled

When I was at primary school all the cool kids listened to KISS. I’ve got no idea what the uncool kids listened to, which is odd because I was one, but I know that the truly popular loved Kiss's music and their costumes and their facepaint and the fake blood spitting and most of all the fact that parents hated it. When I was 8 or thereabouts, four guys in my year had costumes made, donned make-up and lip-synced to a short KISS set complete with cardboard guitars and stage antics. At the time this was only slightly less cool than KISS itself and way cooler than anything else that had happened on the planet up to that point.

When I heard Destroyer (the first KISS album I’d ever listened to all the way through) I expected to be reminded of those times. What I wasn’t expecting was to be constantly reminded of one of my favourite films.

The music of KISS is so close to This is Spinal Tap that I found it easier to conjure images of Nigel Tufnell than I did Gene Simmons. I’ve never heard it officially said but when they sat down to write the music for Tap they must have used Destroyer as a blueprint. You could take Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight and slip it between tracks in Destroyer and it wouldn’t sound out of place at all. If anything it would only be slightly less funny than the rest of the album.

Make no mistake about it- Destroyer is hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. My first listen was while out walking and I had to stop at certain points because I was doubled over with hilarity. Gods of Thunder is vintage Spinal Tap: “I was born on Olympus/To my father a son/I was raised by the demons/Trained to reign as the one. God of thunder and rock and roll/ The spell you're under/Will slowly rob you of your virgin soul.”

How brilliant is that? It’s hysterical on paper but when full of heavy metal bombast and pomposity it’s just side-splitting. I thought it couldn’t get any funnier until the next song came along. Great Expectations features these magnificent lines: “You watch me singing this song/You see what my mouth can do/And you wish you were the one I was doing it to.” If they meant that as a joke its fantastic, if not it’s even better. Like every track on the album Great Expectations features an anthemic chorus that is sung to death. But unlike the rest of Destroyer the “You’ve got, Great Expectations” refrain is augmented by a children’s choir. Only a comic genius can add a chorus of adolescents to a dirty song about would-be-groupies. Well done lads.

If you don’t believe me about the Spinal Tap comparisons compare these two lyrical extracts. The first is Tap (from Christmas with the Devil)…

The elves are dressed in leather,
and the angels are in chains.
The sugar plums are rancid,
and the stockings are in flames.

And this is KISS (from Flaming Youth)…

My uniform is leather,
and my power is my age.
I'm gettin' it together,
to break out of my cage.

Spookily similar or possibly just my imagination. The jury is still out.

Pretty much every song on Destroyer sounds exactly the same. There may be lots of sound effects and weirdness to try and cover it up but the end result is a lot of hilarity accompanied by a terrible guitar solo and multi-tracked vocals repeating the anthemic chorus over and over until it fades out. The one exception is Beth, the album’s obligatory Ballad which is hopefully the low point on the entire 500 list. If it gets worse than this then I don’t want to hear it. Beth is the sad tale of the singer’s girl who is trapped at home while the band is rehearsing. It’s a syrupy ooze of goop that wallows in a fudge of strings and a flute and sentiments that kill the laughter stone dead and just makes your sphincter pucker with embarrassment. I naively thought this would be the track that KISS fans would hate but according to the research I’ve done on Mr Internet this is regarded as one of the album’s greatest moments. KISS fans and I aren’t just on different pages were at extreme ends of the library.

It’s off the topic but a serious thought… there are lots of albums that I think should be on this list but aren’t. I’m trying not to harp on about them but one should be raised here: I seriously believe that This is Spinal Tap should be somewhere in the top 500. If one criteria for making it on this listing is influence then TIST definitely deserves its place. I honestly believe that the film and the subsequent album influenced artists all over the world. Whenever a band started to get a bit too pretentious and wanky it would only take a quick mention of Stonehenge to make them think twice. Influence works two ways.

Highlight: The entire album if you don’t take it seriously.
Lowlight: The entire album if you take it seriously.
Influced by: Black Sabbath. Vaudeville.
Influenced: Nobody above the age of 16

Best Amazon Customer review Quote: “I listen to this when I'm getting syked to get together with my lady. It puts me in the mood!!”
–That doesn’t even bear thinking about.

So were you one of the cool kids in make up or did you give Kiss a Miss? Are they the Kings of your night time world or would you rather spit them out like a fake blood capsule? Let me know below.

3 comments:

  1. Great to have you back blogging Dave. You have chosen a great topic that lets you fuse your humour with your extensive music knowledge. This Kiss review is a ripper. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to reading the next 495 posts.
    cheers
    Andrew

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  2. I never knew that KISS was Keep It Simple Stupid.

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  3. I think the Keep It Simple Stupid acronym came about long after KISS chose their name so it's not why they chose it. Many believe it stands for Knights In Satan's Service but apparently this was just made up by some anti-rock activist. The band themselves have always maintained the name doesn't stand for anything.

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