Released in 1988, Smashes, Thrashes & Hits was a KISS compilation featuring 15 songs. At the time of its release it was the third “greatest hits” style package the band had released. KISS released Double Platinum in 1978 and Killers in 1982 (though Killers wasn’t released in the United States). Nowadays there are so many KISS compilations out there that it’s impossible to keep track. KISS has found a way to re-package the same songs over and over to extract every last dollar from their dedicated fan base. For example, if you include live albums, box sets, as well as hits compilations, the song Rock And Roll All Nite has appeared on about twenty different KISS albums!
I love to make fun of KISS, but I’ll be damned if anyone tries to tell me they didn’t have some good songs. It kind of reminds me of a great George Costanza line from an episode of Seinfeld where he says “If you take everything I’ve accomplished in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”. If you rifle through the huge KISS catalog and combine all the best songs on one album… it’s decent! Smashes, Thrashes & Hits is proof positive. It features 13 KISS “classics” as well as two new songs. The new songs are Paul Stanley/Desmond Child collaborations in the hair band vein of 1987’s Crazy Nights album. In one song Stanley sings that “love’s like a muscle and you make me want to flex” while in the other he sings that “love’s like a glove and it fits just right”. So… yeah… new songs.
It’s hard to argue with the 13 hits compiled on Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. All deserve to be there. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room for everything, so certain favorites are excluded including Hard Lock Woman, Cold Gin, or anything from Crazy Nights. But since Crazy Nights had just come out a year earlier it’s easy to understand why something like Reason To Live didn’t make the cut. (Note: The U.K. version of Smashes, Thrashes & Hits actually did include two songs from Crazy Nights.)
I grew up with an older brother who was an absolute KISS fanatic. He probably has all twenty of the aforementioned albums which include some form or another of Rock And Roll All Night. So I am very familiar with the KISS catalog through the process of osmosis. In fact, I’ve heard songs like Detroit Rock City and Love Gun so many times that I’m pretty numb to them by this point. Nevertheless, this compilation is a gold mine of KISS treasures. While KISS is known for their big “shout it loud” choruses that etch themselves on your brain, I’ve got to say that they wrote some of the catchiest verse sections of any band around. The verse sections on tunes like Strutter, I Love It Loud and Lick It Up are ridiculously catchy. And let’s not forget the opening line of Deuce — “Get up and get your Grandma outta here!”. One of my favorite lyrical pearls!
The version of Beth that appears on Smashes, Thrashes & Hits does not have the original Peter Criss vocal track. Instead, then-KISS drummer Eric Carr sings on this version. He does a surprisingly good job, but it’s no match for the classic original. Normally I would cry foul on something like this, but since Eric Carr ended up passing away a few years later it is kind of sweet to have this version to remember Carr by. My score: A+