The Weekday Ramble is a daily dose of sports, music, culture, and more from Rambling On founder Erik Ritland. For more information check us out on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.
Friday March 20, 2015
Looking back on a classic KISS album.
KISS, you know the name…
I’m a bigger KISS fan than most people (especially those who supposedly “take music seriously,” whatever pretentious garbage that entails). Their first several albums are filled with blistering rock, memorable hooks, and loads of talent. Even after the original band members lost their musical focus – half of them succumbing to various –isms and the other half to money and fame – various formations of the band still made, and continue to make, well-crafted rock.
Along with Rock n’ Roll Over and Love Gun, 1976’s Destroyer is one of my favorite KISS studio albums (their Alive! is one of the best of the ‘70s, period). It includes classics like Gene Simmons’ demon showcase “God of Thunder,” catchy radio staples “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout it Out Loud,” Peter Criss’ big moment “Beth,” and lesser-known worthwhile tracks “Flaming Youth” and “Do You Love Me?”
However I can’t disagree with Nick Deriso’s take on the album that he explained in a recent article for Something Else Reviews:
(On “God of Thunder”), as elsewhere on Destroyer, first-time Kiss producer Bob Ezrin is doing all this superfluous experimental garbage — sound effects, children’s voices, orchestras, whatever. “God of Thunder” ends up as a muscular but simultaneously muddy mess. The longer I listen, every time, to this song … to this whole album … the more I just want to go and dig out Alive! — the up-against-the-wall double-live concert document from the year before that conveys all of the force, and humor of Kiss in a way this often overwrought studio effort just never did.
Ezrin, and therefore Destroyer, just keeps screwing around. When it’s good, there’s fun to be had … and, especially on tough groovers like “God of Thunder,” it almost gets there. When it’s not, though, the project is weirdly disconnected, like it’s trying to sound interesting, but instead just sounds silly.
Deriso is one of my favorite music writers. He proves the depth of his commentary here, describing exactly where and why Destroyer, though it’s filled with great songs, goes wrong. His comparisons to Ezrin’s more experimental, out there work with Pink Floyd is spot on. As he says, “You think about Pink Floyd. You jam out to KISS.”
He’s right about everything, and the Alive! versions will always be definitive, but I’ll always come back to the syrup-y weirdness of Destroyer.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.