Like most good KISS fans, I hit the store on Tuesday, October 6th to pick up my copy of KISS: Sonic Boom. This is the long awaited (11 years) follow up to the disappointing Psycho Circus. If you believe the interviews, the four current members wrote the songs together AND recorded the songs together AND even played their own instruments. (I say “if” due to 30 years of Gene and Paul promising one thing and then several years later admitting that it wasn’t quite true.) The other promise was that Sonic Boom would be a return to the classic KISS sound, specifically late 70s albums like ROCK AND ROLL OVER or LOVE GUN. Because of this promise I will review the album in 4 sections; Paul Songs, Gene Songs, Impostor Songs & a song-by-song breakdown.
With all the talk of the classic KISS sound, I was expecting something more in the line of Paul songs like Take Me, I Stole Your Love, I Want You or Love Gun. Instead of that we songs more in the style of 80s material like My Way, Raise Your Glasses and Rise To It. Something happened to Paul Stanley in the mid-80s where his songs became motivational speeches. Songs about how you have to live your hearts’ dream no matter how much the world tries to hold you down. This album is kinda chock full of those kind of songs from Paul.
Gene actually took the classic KISS sound agenda to heart. His songs not only sound almost like remakes of some of his 70s songs, one song is actually an old song from back in the day that never made it onto an album. I don’t think this album catches Gene at his lyrical best. His lyrics from Revenge, Psycho Circus and his recent solo album were more…interesting. (Even when they were musically disappointing or woefully over-produced.) However, the classic swagger more than makes up for some banal wordplay.
In order to not look like dicks, Gene and Paul propped up Tommy Thayer (Ace impostor) and Eric Singer (Peter impostor) with their own songs. (You see, if they let someone else have a moment in the spotlight they appear less ego maniacal.) Before you get too upset, keep in mind that Gene and Paul made sure to write the songs FOR Tommy and Eric…and keep the songwriting credit and publishing rights for themselves. They were also sure to keep their songs near the end of the album.
SONG BY SONG:
MODERN DAY DELILAH – The lead song, lead single…and it’s a great one. For me this is the only song that truly bridges the gap between having a classic feel and fresh sound.
RUSSIAN ROULETTE – I disliked this song first listen, but it has grown on me. The style jumps from 70s through 80s Gene.
NEVER ENOUGH – The first of the Paul Stanley motivational speeches. This song could have easily fit onto Crazy Nights or Psycho Circus…but fortunately the production style keeps it from sounding like those over=produced dreks.
YES I KNOW (NOBODY’S PERFECT) – This is classic Gene…down to the fact that it’s actually a song he wrote and demoed back in KISS’ heyday. I love this track. It makes me feel like I’m listening to an old KISS track.
STAND – Motivational speech number two. This is awful. Even as a KISS fan this is hard to defend. Paul and Gene trade lead vocals similar to the old days of SHOUT IT OUT LOUD, but it can’t help this song.
HOT AND COLD – This song is a retread. It not only sounds strikingly similar to Genes’ 70s song Ladies Room, it is lyrically littered with phrases from his other popular songs. It’s not terrible, and upon multiple listens it goes down a lot easier, but there’s something about this that feels like mimicry.
ALL FOR THE GLORY – The first Eric Singer lead vocal on an album. Lyrically and stylistically it sounds like something Paul would’ve written for the 80s album Asylum. It has a little bit of that motivational speech feeling, but not as blatant. Poor Eric really only gets one verse to himself and by the time the first chorus ends they prop up his vocals by layering in some Paul Stanley.
DANGER US – I like songs that have clever or even silly wordplay. (Danger Us: Dangerous) I like this song and was refreshed to hear a Paul composition song that wasn’t giving me a philosophy on how live life to the fullest.
I’M AN ANIMAL – Gene always has some kind of song about how he is something more than just your everyday man. (GOD OF THUNDER, ALMOST HUMAN, WAR MACHINE, UNHOLY, etc.) The only Gene song/composition that doesn’t sound like he was trying to mimic some previous recordings. I love the riff and the groove. Great song.
WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES – I’ve been a Tommy Thayer hater since he joined KISS. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that he doesn’t play like Tommy, he impersonates Ace. Most of his licks sound like rehashed Ace snippets. It just rubs me the wrong way. Having said that, this may actually be my favorite song on the album. Is that wrong of me?
SAY YEAH – The closing track goes to Paul. Stylistically like the 80s album HOT IN THE SHADE, but this one actually works. Catchy as heck and fun to sing along.
Overall it’s a great return to stylistic form for KISS. (It’s a shame they couldn’t have tried this approach with Ace & Peter. Maybe Psycho Circus would’ve been more listenable and they other two guys would’ve stuck around.) I give this an 8 out of 10.