Released: 2014, eOne
“Rock soldiers, how do we know? Ace is back and he told you so” – lyrics from “Rock Soldiers” off the 1987 album Frehley’s Comet.
Indeed, Ace is back with a follow-up to 2009s excellent ANOMALY, an album that received nearly unanimous critical acclaim. SPACE INVADER gives Ace two worthy albums in a row, which is not bad if you believe certain Kiss member’s biographies. One side of the story is that Ace was a notorious slacker that skipped studio sessions and did not even play on many of the studio albums that fans assumed was him. The other side of the coin is that Ace was Kiss’s secret weapon that refused to be put under the thumb of his jealous band leaders. Regardless of the truth, which is probably somewhere in the middle, Ace is unquestionably motivated this decade. Add Kiss’s strong SONIC BOOM in ’09 and decent MONSTER in ‘12 and we have this decade’s version of the solo Ozzy Osbourne versus Black Sabbath rivalry in the 80s that resulted in a win for fans that got good albums from both sides.
SPACE INVADER mines the Ace man’s past, including the retro-production and loose but charming songs. Ace’s signature vibrato and slow wide bends are present in the solos while his authentic everyman vocals continue to have a special appeal. Still, SPACE INVADER is an album that needs a few listens to appreciate what has been done. The title track is also the album opener and one of the more connecting songs on the album. “Gimme A Feelin’” follows and is your basic and lovable rocker, clichéd but fun.
Ultimately, you could characterize the entire album as basic rock, with hints of metal and Ace’s patented almost sloppy style of guitar is front and center. Four songs in, we get “Change” the first tune to stray into less-upbeat territory and actually features a varied solo from Ace that sounds more like Kiss-era Bruce Kulick . “Immortal Pleasures” is a simple but slightly different direction as well, with Ace’s can’t sing vocals up front, and a somewhat unusual chord progression for the man in the verses. No Ace album would be complete without an instrumental, though surprisingly no “Fractured” variant. “Starship” closes things, a satisfactory addition to Frehley’s instrumental catalog.
Also expected is Ace’s continuing search for past glory via a cover tune with hopes of hitting as big for him as “New York Groove.” That attempt is Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, not exactly a deep album track, Ace forsaking the acoustic version of the original and distorting things instead. Not bad, but not likely to be a hit either. Ace mentioned in an interview with Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles that “The Joker” was eOne record label’s idea, but he rolled with it because of the success of “New York Groove.” Ace also stated that this album was written in the spirit of the 1978 solo album, and while it falls short of that, indeed it does not even equal “Anomaly”, it is something fans of Ace will appreciate and enjoy. Ace seems content to write and play in a style that he knows best, which is uncomplicated and rock-rooted. And at 63, few would expect the energy and vibe of 1978. Admirably, that has not stopped Ace from giving it a respectable attempt.