1976, Music

Destroyer (1976) by KISS

I think you can regard Bob Ezrin as the “Phil Spector of the ’70s”; a man who focused on creating a dense wall of sound. And, though I don’t like this production style, I think it suits certain things. When Ezrin’s style matches the artist’s material, it works wonders (see, for instance, Berlin or The Wall). But when it doesn’t match the material, well… we get something like this.

I don’t know what anyone involved was thinking here. I don’t know KISS beyond the singles – this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard – but, beyond Ezrin’s work with Alice Cooper – and it’s easy to understand why people thought there was  connection between Alice Cooper and KISS – it’s hard to know why anyone involved thought this was a good idea. KISS, whatever else I may think of them, is rock band that does one thing, and ostensibly they do it well (I may disagree). Ezrin does one thing very well too, but that one thing is not straight forward arena/hard rock. (Though I should note I haven’t heard Ezrin’s work with Alice Cooper, so maybe I’m off base here.)
And the reason I spend all this time focusing on the choice of the producer is because I think I might hate this less if Ezrin wasn’t involved. And the prime piece of evidence for this, and the nadir of the record, is “Great Expectations.”

“Great Expectations” is awful in numerous ways:

  • it’s not a particularly good melody,
  • the lyrics are awful – and have a lot in common with the other lyrics on this record,
  • it features a terrible vocal performance from Gene Simmons – and raises the question, ‘can Gene Simmons sing?’ See also “God of Thunder”
  • and it features a horrible arrangement from Ezrin, that shows off his wall of sound approach at its very worst.

The song is, with no exaggeration, perhaps the worst song I have heard from a major band in the ’70s, certainly one as best-selling as KISS.

And Ezrin’s production style wreaks havoc elsewhere as well. “Detroit Rock City,” a truly successful big, dumb rock song – a song I love because of Haysdeed Dixie’s cover, I might add, and not the original… – is introduced by a ridiculous, pretentious radio introduction that sounds as if KISS and Ezrin had Wish You Were Here on repeat or something. And there’s also whatever the “untitled” hidden track is…

The rest of the material is almost all mediocre to bad. The one exception I might grant is “Shout it Out Loud,” which is s big, dumb rock song that I don’t like, but I will grant that it is better than all but one other song on the record.

And I guess I should deal with “Beth.” I don’t hate “Beth” despite my inclination to hate music like this. But it has very little in common with the rest of the record or, really, with the rest of their oeuvre (that I’ve heard). And it features literally one member of the band. It’s hard to see how it’s KISS.


The songs are not good. There’s one good one, maybe two – and I really don’t want to grant that there’s two. The riffs are blah and the melodies are not particularly good. (This is excepting “Detroit Rock City” of course.) They reveal KISS for being an arena rock band in “metal” clothing.

The lyrics are mostly awful. They veer from celebrating how great their fans are to discussing how they (or, specifically, Gene Simmons) wants to and will fuck their fans. Isn’t this pandering? I think it’s pandering.

The performances are not great and the presence of session musicians begs a question about whether or not KISS were able (or willing) to perform some of this music. Yes, Paul Stanley can sing. Peter Criss can apparently sing too. Gene Simmons may not be able to. And were Stanley or Frehley just unable to play some of the solos? What’s with that?

And then there’s the production, which veers from uniquely unsuited to the material to being appropriate to the material but the material is either bad or clearly not KISS material.

This is uniquely bad album, in part because it has sold at least 2 million copies, in part because it has made numerous ‘best of’ lists and because it is considered by some to be KISS’s best album. If this is among KISS’s best albums, what do the bad ones sound like?


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