The truth, and everyone knows it, is this: If not for the makeup and pyrotechnics and the tongue, KISS would have never made it out of New York City. Let that soak in, KISS Army member. Is it really the music you love? Would you have fallen in love with the band without all the comic-book imagery or the blood or the fire or the Third Reich-lite double S in their logo?
KISS as a “band” is a marketing scheme, really, and in some ways maybe the most brilliant one in rock history. Simmons, who is most certainly a grade A, premium-quality douchebag, has a mouth that never stops jabbering about how amazing he is. He regularly throws current and former bandmates under speeding buses, such as when he recently chided singer/guitar player Paul Stanley about his weak vocal cords.
Simmons’ truly awful views on women and minorities prove that he’s essentially Donald Trump in spandex and clown makeup. In his 2017 advice book On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power (okay, so he’s even less subtle than Trump), he advised that women should use sex to get what they want in life: “as soon as they pretty themselves up with lipstick ... they’re gonna get a response.”
He’s also had a vendetta against rap music for years. In a 2014 Radio.com interview, he displayed just how stuck he is in 1982 by complaining about Run-D.M.C.’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “You’re killing me. That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.” This from the guy whose most famous song is the one that goes “I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day.” Nobody show this guy a Young Thug song or his head might explode.
Then again, if we’re wrong and it really is about the music for you, that might be even worse. In the ’80s and ’90s alone, there were more interesting rock and roll bands playing at the Mason Jar on a Tuesday night. And even that’s probably selling the longtime Phoenix dive bar/venue, where just about everyone has played, a little short.
It says something about the man (or woman, we’re equal opportunity offenders here) who is still into KISS, namely, that they never moved past a fifth-grader’s level of taste. When you’re 8 years old and looking for a band to like, KISS is a perfect choice. They wear silly makeup and shoot fire at their concerts and their songs are as simple as can be. When you’re 18, though, or 28, or 38, being a KISS fan just says, loudly and clearly, “I’m emotionally stunted; please never take me seriously.”
One should always question any band or artist whose look is more memorable than all of their songs combined. KISS may be as visually stunning an example of cock rock as there ever has been, but its painfully average music won’t survive the test of time. It doesn’t deserve to.
Douglas Markowitz contributed to this article.
KISS: End of the Road World Tour. Wednesday, February 13, at Gila River Arena, 9400 West Maryland Avenue, Glendale; 623-772-3800; gilariverarena.com. Tickets on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 2, at kissonline.com.