As I continue looking at the most recent inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we get to the favorite band of my friend J.D., who doubles as my good-taste-nemesis.
As a critic/writer/analyst, Kiss really fascinate me, because they prompt such wildly divergent opinions on their merit, those opinions are always passionate and absolute, and I find I kind of agree with both sides. As someone who enjoys listening to guitar based rock music, I like Kiss. As someone who believes pop music is a great art form, I don't like Kiss. And like an opinion polygamist, I often find myself supporting both sides of the debate.
There's a quote that Wolverine frequently says in comics which goes "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice." That basically describes Kiss, too. I would tweak it a little to say "They're the best they are at what they do, but what they do is very limited and kind of stupid." And let's be serious, Kiss' music IS kind of stupid. "Love Gun" is all about Paul Stanley's dick (thank you, Role Models, for that great quote). "Plaster Caster" is Gene singing about a groupie that liked to make plaster molds of rock stars' dicks. "Cold Gin" is usually introduced in concert by Paul screaming "Who likes to drink alcohol?!?" And approximately 45% of their good songs contain the word "rock" in the title, which doesn't say much about the complexity of their vocabulary BUT, Kiss were indisputably the best at what they did. If you wanted stupid rock music accompanied by great riffs and a ridiculous show, Kiss were the band to beat, and they were never beaten. They were remarkably influential, even if a lot of the bands they influenced invariably sucked. They were great at writing instantly memorable riffs and choruses, even if those abilities never aspired to anything of substance. They were shameless about being all about getting laid, being famous, and having fun, but they also never acted like those were ignoble pursuits. They were who they were, perhaps more than any other band has ever been. There's something to be said for that, even if that something can't really be said intelligently. I absolutely believe they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I also think the institution is kind of lessened for their inclusion. I know this is contradictory, but that's what Kiss inspires in me.
To like Kiss, I think you pretty much have to be exposed to them prior to the age of 16, and I was. That's really the only time you'll be able to wholeheartedly believe them without seeing right through them. But Kiss puts this weird spell on people that as long as someone likes them at an early age, they sort of always will despite an eventual adult intelligence (presumably) telling them to run away and listen to something of more substance. Liking Kiss is almost like fondly remembering your favorite cartoon as a kid. They're like the Thundercats. I'm at least pretty sure I mean that as a compliment.
This was originally written and posted on Facebook on June 10, 2014
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