Released: 2009, Loud & Proud Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
As a disgruntled longtime KISS fan, I’ve been awaiting the release of SONIC BOOM with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the fanboy inside me had hoped that this first collection of new KISS material since 1998’s ill-fated PSYCHO CIRCUS would redeem the band artistically and be as great as the band have been promoting the album to be. On the other hand, the cynical bastard inside of me has long since written off KISS as a corporate enterprise that sold out any legitimacy they may have earned along the way with an unflinching willingness to slap the logo and character icons on any (and I mean any) piece of merchandise that they feel will turn a quick buck, and that this album would be just another piece of disposable KISS merch. After spending some time with the album, I can safely say that it’s somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
Let’s start with the good - SONIC BOOM is much better than I’d anticipated. Call it lowered expectations, call it what you want, but it’s really not bad. Off the bat, it’s a better collection of songs than PSYCHO CIRCUS was and it’s most certainly better than anything released post-CREATURES (that’s not saying much, though). Paul Stanley is clearly driving the bus on this outing and his direction and focus can be felt in the overall cohesiveness of the songs here. “Modern Day Delilah,” “Say Yeah,” “Danger Us,” and the “Never Enough” are all respectable additions to an already vast library of classic tunes. Stanley’s voice doesn’t quite have the girly-boy range that it once had, but for a guy pushing 60, he still sounds pretty darn good here. Years of playing the role of “the Spaceman” have benefited Tommy Thayer’s performance here, as he’s got Ace’s guitar tone and vibratos down to a science without coming across as totally plagiaristic. Once and again drummer Eric Singer plays it safe for the most part, which given the resume that the guy has is a little disheartening, but in the context of SONIC BOOM I suppose it’s fitting. And Gene $immon$? While his songs are the weakest of the lot, when listening to them, I almost forgot what a schmuck the guy can be.
Now, the not so good (and I’m not even going to mention the album cover). First of all, what’s the point? Other than simple “because we can” self indulgence, what’s the point of a new KISS album now at a time when the band is so feverishly milking its own nostalgia from 1975? Is there really any chance that we’ll hear any other new song besides “Delilah” live? And while SONIC BOOM feels less forced than PSYCHO CIRCUS, it’s still very formulaic. Just because Ace and Peter would usually get a song on the classic albums, does that mean that Tommy and Eric really need to get a spotlight track each? While Singer's "All For the Glory" is strong (yet awfully repetetive), Thayer's "When Lightning Strikes" is a textbook definition of filler. “Stand” is the token Stanley/Simmons vocal tradeoff KISS-unity anthem, which starts out strong but outstays its welcome, while the $immon$ fronted tunes are “meh” at best. While $immon$’ songs have always centered around the subject of coitus, the innuendo of songs like “Ladies Room” or “Plaster Caster” have been abandoned for a more direct approach. In “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect),” he skips the foreplay all together and simply tells the ladies to “take off your clothes.” There’s something about hearing him say that in 2009 that just makes you feel icky. The ten tracks on SONIC BOOM are a shiny, new distraction, but will they ultimately hold up in the long run against albums like LOVE GUN or DESTROYER? It’s unlikely, at best.
At the end of the day, you’ve already made up your mind about SONIC BOOM. Diehard fans will tell you that SONIC BOOM is better than the second coming of Christ, while casual/newer fans will likely give it a listen if only for the curiosity factor. The positives outweigh the negatives and it’s a decent platter of hard rock to spend some time with. You wanted the best, you got…SONIC BOOM. Check it out, you know you want to.