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KISS:

PSYCHO CIRCUS
ECM Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
Kiss: Psycho CircusKISS: PSYCHO CIRCUS - 1998
Mercury Records

I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS NIGHT TO COME

The other day I was at my neighborhood record store and the owner of the shop, in defense of KISS actually said,
"Bands like KISS really have no control over what their record companies do. If the company wants to put out a bunch of stuff, KISS has no say."

This was funny for many reasons.
1. "Bands Like Kiss?" There ARE no Bands Like KISS!
2. No control over their marketing and merchandise? YEAH RIGHT! What other band do you know of that is hyped so well and sold so completely? Once you become a KISS fan they are in your pocket at every turn and NOTHING is free on the KISS ride. Madonna and Michael Jackson never CONCEIVED the kind of fan soaking that KISS, and ONLY KISS can indulge in unscathed.

That's right, unscathed! If you think I'm here to wring my hands and whine over the many ways in which KISS tries to wreck their fan's pocketbook, think again. THE FANS KNOW IT! THEY LOVE IT! It is what being a KISS fan IS! KISS fans are suckers for anything and everything KISS and we just don't CARE! I am probably the least of the KISS fans. I don't own every album, just the KISS necessities.

That's right, necessities; just shutup and read.

I have the KISS Double Platinum, ALIVE, ALIVE II, and ALIVE III (nothing is better than KISS live!), and of course, their latest CD, PSYCHO CIRCUS.

So what about the new album?

It's expensive for one thing, no surprise there. The CD Jewel case, for example, uses specially molded plastic inside and out to give the booklet and inner sleeve an action 3D look. You know how easily these jewel cases can break, so be very wary in the handling, because if you crack it you'll just have to buy the CD all over again. There is also a voucher for a contest inside AND YOU JUST MIGHT BE A WINNER! The only way to know for sure is to call the 900 number (that's right Elroy, YOU pay again!) and listen until they give you the bad news. The CD is "enhanced" meaning that it has visual goodies for your computer. You get some nice computer screen savers to make your roommates, friends or co-workers slaver in envy until they go and buy the CD for themselves. You also get another pitch to join kissonline.net. It's just like earthlink or aol except it's KISS! Only $19.95 a month and you're in, Flynn! BUT WAIT! THAT'S NOT ALL! You also get a partial KISS catalogue of KISS items like kollectable KISS kollector koins and KISS blankets!

Yes, friends now that the original members have given the boot to the old - in - betweeny - members, the KISS merchandising machine is back in full swing. So how come I'm not giving them any grief? Didn't I shit on Iron Maiden for selling out? YES! But Iron Maiden was trying to sell me America Online! KISS only ever sells themselves. Like KORN and now PEARL JAM, KISS have hooked their wagon to SPAWN creator Todd McFarlane's fast rising star, having KISS PSYCHO CIRCUS comic books and KISS dolls hit the shelves before the CD was even out of the studio.

Have you caught your breath yet? Good! Because, for all of this hype, the album better be able to stand up on it's own. After all, the music is what's holding all of this marketing mayhem together right? RIGHT? (C'mere a minute. <Slap>!)

KISS, in the form of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, are far too savvy to let something as minor as an album stand in their way. It was NEVER about the music to Paul and Gene, that was Ace Frehley and Peter Criss' thing. Paul and Gene were concerned about the MONEY which equals the SHOW!

Among the marketing strategies: The old line-up of KISS have done a Halloween episode of MAD TV and an episode of THE X-FILES. They were both painful to watch. A movie about the band is coming out later in the year of 1999. Also look for a PC game of KISS that will also be about PSYCHO CIRCUS, although the name of the game might be different.

Damn! Just look at all I've said and I haven't even covered the album yet. Sorry, but you need to get a full idea of the phenomenon that is going on here. This is not like the phenomenon of a musical genius or true talent, this is military style, war room planning on a global scale! I shit you not! Before the first lyric was put to paper, I'll bet that Paul and Gene were gathered together in some room with hand picked top advisors, orchestrating the strategy that would be the KISS' COMEBACK TO END ALL COMEBACKS!

Ahem . . . but what about the album?

Is it be obvious by this time that I would be expected to say, "They should have spent some time putting together a good album."?

Well, they should have!

KISS haven't pumped themselves up this much since the last time the original members were together.

That's not to say the album stinks, no, no, no!

The album starts out with the great showstopping, hard rocking, soon to be played to death hit song PSYCHO CIRCUS. Then Gene steps up to the mike in a throaty, creepy turn with WITHIN. Naturally this makes you think that the album is about to fulfill the eerie promise of it's howling clown album cover. Nope! Instead the album takes a very Pop turn with I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE STATE OF ROCK AND ROLL. Not just a Pop sound, but a 1970's Pop sound which re-occurs throughout the whole of PSYCHO CIRCUS. The album is then coasting as we plod through INTO THE VOID and the maudlin WE ARE ONE (For all five of you KISS fans who just loved the KISS cover of GOD GAVE ROCK AND ROLL TO YOU). All four sing and bring the album back from the trash heap with YOU WANTED THE BEST in their natural old fashioned KISS way; with great riffs and rhythms that many a metal hair band has tried to equal. Then PSYCHO CIRCUS sinks again with a complete filler tune called RAISE YOUR GLASSES, which is needlessly anthemic. Two more songs wallow through '70's style Pop. Amazingly it is the Gene Simmons songs, and not the Ace Frehley songs, that are both the best and worst on this album. Gene rescues this mess at the end with JOURNEY OF 1000 YEARS which is my favorite song on the entire album.

Even the most rabid of KISS fans will honestly tell you that KISS can put out gems as well as crap on the same disk. It's no different with this album. When KISS is good, there is nobody better, when KISS sucks I can't believe that it can really be the same band that made COLD GIN and DETROIT ROCK CITY. I welcome back the old line-up of these Macabre Clowns of Glam; Metal; Hard Rock; fill a niche where you will. But PSYCHO CIRCUS is no Magnum Opus and I can't give it more than three perplex skulls. For many new bands just starting out, that would be quite good, but for a band who has been at this as long as KISS, it's a step down when they should have stepped up.

Perplex SkullPerplex SkullPerplex Skull

This review copyright 1998 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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