KISS’ eighties discography is often the subject of ridicule. To some, the non-makeup years are viewed as far inferior to KISS’ “classic” seventies heyday. Shuffling line-ups, poor concert attendance, and questionable musical choices plagued the band during the eighties. Yet, KISS still managed to be extremely productive in the eighties, cranking out albums at a healthy clip. Here at PLAY IT LOUD!, we’re actually quite fond of the KISS’ discography from Creatures Of The Night (1982) through Crazy Nights (1987). We’re not at all afraid to admit to enjoying the music of the controversial non-makeup years!
That brings us to KISS’ closing chapter of the eighties, 1989’s Hot In The Shade. After a string of good to very good albums, could KISS’ close the Golden Decade with a bona fide gem? The answer, of course, was a resounding no.
The first thing one notices about Hot in The Shade is that it contains 15 songs. That’s a lot of songs for any album, even by today’s standards. A commendable thing for KISS to do, even though it turned about to be more of a bowel evacuation than an indicator of quality. The problem with Hot In The Shade, for me, is that it does the one thing that music should never do, and that is bore me. It’s not that the material here is egregiously bad or embarrassing. It’s just pretty damn boring. The Gene Simmons tunes are the biggest initiators of snooze. Like a chloroform-soaked rag to my face. Gene fails to deliver — mostly due to a startling lack of charisma, and his inability to have anything of merit to say. As per usual, there were a number of outside writers called upon to help out. Hired guns include hair metal hit maker Desmond Child, as well as Bob Halligan Jr. (the same guy who wrote a couple of turds for Judas Priest), Tommy Thayer (formerly of Black ‘N Blue, and future KISS member), and even the so-called “no talent ass clown” himself, Sir Michael Bolton. But all to little avail. The best songs are the Paul Stanley ones (as usual), but even The Starchild was a bit off his game here. His best contribution was Hide Your Heart, however his Broadway voice didn’t quite match up with the gritty, street lyrics of the song. By contrast, Ace Frehley’s fractured voice did the song a surprising amount of justice on his (better) version of the same tune, also released in 1989. My score: C+