For a band that looks scary – well one of the members looks scary – and with their kind of stage show, this is some pretty tame blues rock. Much like Alice Cooper, the appearance and show match the music in a way that can only be described as incongruously. It’s a wonder how these guys became so famous playing music like this but looking like that. Or, maybe it isn’t, because if they had been playing metal they wouldn’t have been so popular in the US. Metal did exist in 1974, even if it was still very much a toddler, and so there is at least some surprise that they don’t sound at least a little closer to a band like Sabbath. (The surprise is muted because I know what they sounded like later in the decade, but still…)
Generic blues rock songs are all well and good, albeit very typical of the era. I often don’t mind this kind of music (and used to love it when I was younger) if it’s competent. It’s competent. Considerably more so than I imagined; with Gene Simmons unable to make the rest of the band look amazing by comparison at this point. (What happened? How did Simmons get worse as a musician as the band got more popular? Or did his parts just get more prominent?)
But, as you might imagine, the songs are unbelievably dumb. I have a soft spot for “Black Diamond” due to the the Replacements cover (and the fact that it is a teeny bit ambitious, unlike every other track), and I really enjoy the title to the instrumental “Love Theme From Kiss,” but these songs are dumb. (For example: “Kissin’ Time” is just “California Girls” but even stupider.)
As I noted above, the musicianship is better than expected. Stanley is a good singer, Simmons manages to sound not awful, Frehley and Stanley acquit themselves well on guitar. But Blue Oyster Cult they are not.
Also, one problem I have with some later KISS records is the production, and I definitely don’t have a problem here.
But there’s nothing here that overcomes my aversion to the band itself (except maybe the title of “Love Theme From Kiss”) and so I find myself thinking, once again, that KISS fans are crazy for thinking this band is great.