Why Rolling Stone gets it right: We're talking about Kiss here, one of the most interesting live bands of all time. "Alive!" is a set of their early-career hits in the way they were meant to be played: In silly makeup and lots of crowd noise.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Kiss is more novelty act than rock band and, like the Beastie Boys, I've never met a big Kiss fan who wasn't a moron or a teenager.
Best song: "Strutter" is a really cool song and one of the band's only real good songs.
Worst song: "Rock Bottom" kind of stinks.
Is it awesome?: It's close.
Like it or not, Kiss is pretty important. Their version of rock showmanship made as much of a mark as nearly any band around. Among the fire-breathing, the Peter Criss balladry (hello, "Beth!") and Gene Simmons combo of blood and tongue is a band that played pretty standard hard rock. Listening to it on record isn't that exciting unless you try to think of a guy wearing Kabuki makeup singing.
So, Kiss is clearly at home on stage.
The sturm and drang that surrounds Kiss is all nonsense, but it's fun nonsense. And more importantly, it's great business for the band. By putting their names and faces on just about everything, they get ridiculous royalties every time something sells.
With that said, who buys this crap? I could see buying a Kiss t-shirt or maybe a Kiss lunch box. But, a giant Kiss lithograph of their comic book personas? A Demon Duck? What about a $75 Kiss lava lamp? Kiss perfume? Or maybe Kiss condoms?
I mean, there's a goddamned Kiss coffeehouse in Myrtle Beach. ("Coffee with attitude.")
Again, I ask: Who buys this crap? Are people this stupid?
With that said, I do enjoy "Strutter." The Donnas cover is much better, but Kiss' version isn't bad.
Let me say that I'm also not the representative of pretentious indie rock snobs, because Pitchfork has given "Alive!" a 10 out of 10 in their review. If I'd not had extensive experience listening to "Alive!," I might even be convinced that it's as great as the reviewer says it is:
Man, who didn't like Kiss? Back in the mid-'70s when America was stuck in between Watergate and Star Wars, Kiss reminded us that there were still broads to be nailed, beer to be imbibed, and a good time to be had by all. Alive! is total sonic proof of Kiss climbing their apex and knocking off one of the all time great live albums.
Of course, I wasn't even a thought in my parents' eyes when Kiss was good. "Alive!" is good, but it's Kiss. More novelty than actual band.