Gene Simmons’ A**hole Review

I’ve been waiting for a new KISS album for quite some time.  You can’t count Alive IV since it has no original music on it and besides it’s a live album.  So, I was waiting for Mr. Tongue himself to finish his solo album.  I’d say long awaited solo album, but I’m not so sure.

Of course, I couldn’t wait and jumped on the chance of downloading a few tracks for my advanced listening pleasure.  I was unsure. Hearing individual tracks out of context of a whole album makes it much more difficult to picture the entire vibe the record is supposed to convey.  It is sort of like hearing a single and then buying the album and realizing that the rest of the album sounds nothing like the single.

The diversity reflected on the Demon’s first solo album in more than 25 years is at once interesting and nauseating.  There is no direction. The album simply is a collection of songs. Some songs are good. Some are bad and very few are in-between.

1) “Sweet and Dirty Love”

Originally written for KISS in 1977, this rock track kicks off the album and seriously could have been (and probably should have been) on the next KISS studio album. It’s alright with obvious Bruce Kulick guitar and Eric Singer drums.  In fact I’d swear that’s Paul Stanley on the background vocals.

2) “Firestarter”

When I heard this track I had to compare it to Prodigy’s original 1996 version. I’m not sure Gene, with Dave Navarro on guitar, brings anything new to the song and that’s a shame. I thought it was a cool song to cover and to be honest a much better title than Asshole for the album. I mean, c’mon Gene you are not stupid. Some mother in Wal-Mart is gonna see the title of your album, freak-out and Wal-Mart will probably pull your album from the shelves.  This is a song that I’m not sure I like, but when you accompany it with the music video I really like the song.  It’s sorta like the Sabotage video by the Beastie Boys.  I don’t really care too much for that song, but play the video and I’m hooked.

3) “Weapons Of Mass Destruction”

Here’s Gene trying to hard to be a rawkgawd with his growling voice and uptempo beat. More guitar wailing and skin pounding by Mssrs Kulick and Singer.  Unfortunately, the song is just boring, meaningless and muddy.  Gene doesn’t even sing, but shouts the incomprehensible lyrics.

4) “Waiting For The Morning Light”

Finally the Dylan track.  Gene brags about this collaborative effort almost as much as he does about the fact that KISS has the most gold records of any American band. The fact that all Dylan did was contribute a chord pattern makes this really a Gene Simmons song. Mr. Mumbles didn’t even write any lyrics for this song and its painfully obvious to me that Mr. KISS (as Bob called him) tried really hard to write like Dylan. The result is a nice diversion. I actually think that if Paul Stanley sung the song I’d like it more.

5) “Beautiful”

Another song if sung by somebody else would be way better.  Gene doesn’t quite have the range needed to make this work. It sounds like a really bad drum machine with boring keyboards that sounded a lot like my old Casio from 1987. I think the song is about plastic surgery… I’m not sure.

6) “Asshole”

Back to the rock tracks and a pretty direct guitar riff steal from the defunct 80s band Trixter. I heard this song with the original vocals by Frank Tostrup and I much prefer his style then Gene’s. The sheep sound effect would have been funny only once, not every time that sheep line comes up. The lyrics are actually funny, but Gene gives them zero zip.

7) “Now That You’re Gone”

Gene trying to be John Lennon.  The vocal arrangement feels very Beatles-like especially with the bridge.  This song might have been better with a different vocalist. The drum machine does not help this song in the least.  I actually kind of like the children’s choir. If it would have made a KISS album, it would have been known as “Gene’s song about his father.”

8) “Whatever Turns You On”

Now this is fun. This has a relaxed, jamming in the studio, press record vibe and it brings a smile to listen to repeatedly. The campy background vocals add tremendously to the track.  The piano is amazing and jump and jives the song into overdrive. The chorus is clever and infectious.  This song sticks with you.  I wish Gene would have used this song as the template for the rest of the album.

9) “Dog”

Very much a companion to “Whatever Turns You On,” this song has fun background vocals and a style closer to what Gene can do well.  The lyrics are so tongue-in-cheek and flat-out funny.  The song adds a measure of unpretentiousness that makes this track sound way better than anything does on the first half of the album. I like this song a lot.

10) “Black Tongue”

Back to the weird stuff.  This feels like when the Beatles resurrected an old demo of John’s.  The guitar riff that Dweezil found is interesting, but it feels like only part of a song. Zappa speaking at the start of the track seems forced and only serves to remind listeners that Frank had a hand in the song. Although, I actually like it when he turns up again in the middle right before some tremendous guitar work by Dweezil and as the track fades.  At least this feels original and interesting.

11) “Carnival Of Souls”

This track sounds nothing like the KISS album of the same name and would have been a really a bad track on a fairly unique album.  It might have been a nice addition to the Psycho Circus album as a replacement for the insipid “You Wanted the Best.”  Ritchie Kotzen does have some nice licks here and there, but there isn’t much for him to do in this drum machine marching song.  Eric Singer really could have given this song some life.

12) “If I Had A Gun”

What in the hell is this?  The first person perspective does not suit Gene at all.  I might like this song with different lyrics since the music is kinda nice and the melody is somewhat catchy.  But with lyrics like “If I had a gun/I’d have me some fun” I can’t quite take it to heart or as some sort of commentary on the state of the world today.

13) “I Dream A Thousand Dreams”

Shoot me now. At least on Gene’s last solo album the cover of “When You Wish Upon A Star” was done with tongue pressed firmly in cheek with an off key Gene singing the lyrics behind his Demon persona.

This song has an island-like arrangement and sounds so old fashioned and ridiculous I doubt any old school KISS fans would be caught dead listening to this song.

Gene is trying to flex his song writing abilities and produce an eclectic collection of music. In that he succeeds. However, I’m tempted to  only listen to about half the album on any one attempt and that does not bode well for continued listening.

Perhaps Paul Stanley’s solo effort due sometime in early 2005 will be the breath of fresh air that KISS fans have been longing.