Not to be confused with actual KISS songs…
f you don’t know KISS – don’t start here!
True Fans of any band spit on Greatest Hits albums. They’re albums for the weak. Greatest hits are for Casual Listeners, or for some dork to explore a band without the expense of buying the back catalog. (Well, that used to be the case, until the internet came along and let everyone into the party while simultaneously spoiling the party for everyone.)
Smashes, Thrashes and Hits is a Greatest Hits album with a difference. And not a good difference. This 24th overall album from KISS is a collection of Greatest Hits remixed pointlessly, Eric Carr’s vocals replacing Peter Criss’s on Beth, and two really awful Paul Stanley-produced new songs that are basically the same song written twice.
Selections are from 1974’s Kiss to 1985’s Asylum (with the UK release adding selections from 1987’s Crazy Nights, which is commendable, considering that some ponytailed record company asshole actually took the time to tease out what were hits across the pond, rather than just releasing a catchall album).
But which DEAF PERSON produced the remixes?
Someone needs to explain the point of remixes to me, without citing P.T. Barnum’s “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Remixes are what Old George Lucas is to STAR WARS. i.e. was it really worth the second price of admission to see more sky traffic and a bantha in the background? If you made your bones on a recording that was made in a kitchen with the sound of cars going by in the background (much like the first three KISS albums) then why remix what has already been successful? Yes, there is the venal reason to “Sell It Again” to youngsters and collectors (see P.T. Barnum), and maybe that’s reason enough for corporations. But the youngsters miss out on what made the recording great in the first place, and the collectors feel spat upon by asking them to buy it again.
Only the artists themselves truly “care” about remixes on an artistic level. The rest of us? Do we really need the extra sky traffic?
Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
Most of the remixes on Smashes hardly make a difference, but I Love It Loud (from Creatures Of The Night) has been turned into I Love It MOR. They’ve reduced those monolith drums from BOOM-BOOM-BASH / BOOM-BOOM-BASH to pom-pom-twat / pom-pom-twat. The drums were the whole POINT of that song and that album; KISS even call it their “drumming album”!
Carr’s vocal re-rendering of Beth (from Destroyer) over its original orchestra track adds nothing new or interesting. Criss has a great voice. Carr has a great voice. Though Carr had been performing this song live for nearly 8 years (n.b. longer than Peter had performed it), why spend the time and money to re-render it? To re-release as a single? No. It’s just an experiment. Not even a failed experiment, just a – diversion. As much as I loathe Peter Criss for his ignorance and boneheadedness, his vocal version is better – for primacy and character.
Another KISS – is all you need!
— Robert Palmer, “Addicted To Love”
Let’s Put The X In Sex. Come on! Where’s the hidden camera? Is this for real? The song? And the video? And Paul’s gaybo dancing? Accompanied by some of the ugliest ice-queen strippers-cum-models to grace a rock band video. Stanley: “When I showed up for the shoot, I said, ‘These women all look like they need a sandwich. They look like underfed pelicans.’ They had no tits and no ass. And they strutted around like they were in a Robert Palmer video… not eighties hair metal video girls.” (Funny Paul should phrase it that way, as X In Sex sounds vaguely like a composite of Palmer’s Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible.)
With Eric beating on his Ludwig chikara kit, Bruce and Gene dutifully in the background as leatherboys, we see Paul has grasped the reins forcefully as the exclusive frontman – a new look for KISS – but that unencumbered dancing is freaking us out. Though displaying a real athletic prowess and energy like Lee Roth or Jagger (and definitely as individualistic as a Byrne or a Morrison), we can’t figure why Paul isn’t playing – or at least holding – a guitar? Gene’s lack of involvement during the non-makeup years had become intolerable, and Stanley was now doing everything – including writing and producing these two new songs – so he definitively felt like KISS had become “his” band and that he had every right to be “frontman.” Hence, he can now shake his botty like the devil is trying to touch it, setting off the gaydar in every home across the nation that broadcast MTV. In his own words, “This was a whole new level of bad taste and judgment.”
(You Make Me) Rock Hard. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice… Isn’t this the same song? And the same video of Eric beating chikara, Bruce and Gene leatherboys, Paul frolicking like a bimbo– but wait: presaging Psycho Circus, the band are under a candy-striped big top and Paul swings in on a trapeze! No, I’m not making this up!
All in all, it’s well-produced 80’s “hair metal” – which was not really metal at all, just rock and roll with smooth guitars. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these two songs or videos, and they are probably guilty pleasures to a whole swathe of young fans, but they are decidedly NOT that band we know as KISS. I can’t help thinking of all the LOONIES that complain the modern 2015 KISS with Tommy and Eric is “fake” when pelican shit like this is out there. THIS was the fake KISS; it was KISS trying to be someone other than themselves.
And lastly – I hope they didn’t pay Mitchell Kanner, the art director who threw together that album cover by letting his 3rd grade daughter make a collage. The figures are not on the same plane, not in the same lighting; we can clearly see they’re anemic sepia-tone cutouts, with a horrible cloud-red background, and a collage of reaching forearms in the foreground that are not in proportion to the size of the band, and the arms are repeated images.
Renowned for their striking album covers, this is by far the absolute worst; much worse than those reputed to be inferior, like Animalize or Hot In The Shade. Kanner might rationalize that it’s meant to look goofy, or like fan art, or like cutouts – but aiming for mediocrity and succeeding is nothing to crow about.
At least the album is aptly named – it makes us want to smash, thrash and hit something. And it went double-platinum. Because P.T. Barnum was correct.