Simmons – Asshole
You wanted the best… But would you settle for Gene Simmons?
Like Gene’s 1978 solo album, Asshole shows us once again why Paul Stanley has had the lion share of KISS hits over the years. Gene seems to have a deeply felt need to jump on bandwagons. We saw it with his 1978 solo album where he interspersed the few standout tracks with Disco flavored numbers. In fact, it was Paul’s solo album that sounded the most like KISS (tells you something). Down the line, Gene showed this tendency over and over again. “She’s So European” anyone? Although, I will say that “Naked City” is perhaps one of Gene’s real shining moments. But the biggest demonstration of bandwagon jumping was Gene’s material on “Carnival of Souls”. After making the album of their post make-up career with “Revenge”, the band kowtowed to the grunge movement in the same way they tried to latch on to the glam trends of the late 80s. Hey Paul, what happened to the pink gloves? Gene, glad you got rid of that Asylum era wig.
Let’s face it, Gene rarely shines as a songwriter, it was Paul that gave KISS their best consistent music over the years. Most of Gene’s contributions have been filler, with an occasional standout song. Lyrically, Gene can be downright insipid. “.. put my log in your fireplace”, Please. The Asshole equivalent? "You got a personality, yeah, just like a bucket full of pee”. Thanks for taking us back to 3rd grade Gene!
But Gene has pulled off the banal lyrics in the past by letting the music do the talking. He fails miserably on Asshole. His 1978 album shocked many when it hit the shelves. Out of all the KISS members, you would have thought that Gene would have put out the heaviest rock album, but he instead went for the mainstream in a big way and filled the CD with “special guests”. But there were a few gems in the pile of mediocrity there. The rockin’ yet pop-full “Radioactive” and the two Beatle’esq songs “See You Tonite” and “Mr. Make Believe”. For comic relief, we had Gene’s rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Unfortunately, those songs were offset with Disco infused songs like “Burning Up With Fever” and “See You In Your Dreams”.
What about Asshole? Are there any songs that make it salvageable? Sadly, no. “Beautiful” comes the closest but fails to save this CD. Asshole is bad, even by Gene Simmons standards. The album suffers from a serious lack of production, it sounds like Gene hooked up a drum machine to his PC, fired up Pro-Tools and went to town on songs that have previously been rejected for KISS releases. It’s a mix of wannabe nu-metal meets industrial “Firestarter” and a bad take on 80s pop “Waiting For The Morning Light,” which sounds like the keyboards were done with a cheap Radio Shack kids keyboard and Gene sounds like he’s struggling to hit the notes. Perhaps he was trying to sound emotional or even pensive, but it just comes out sounding desperate, like an American Idol audition gone bad. There is absolutely no excuse for the musical production. It’s a rip-off for the fans. Gene could afford to spend more on this CD, it’s not like he’s a struggling musician, recording in his basement on a shoestring budget out of necessity. As a result, “Waiting For The Morning Light,” sounds like a Mike and the Mechanics demo reject.
“Sweet & Dirty Love” is pure Gene filler, it’s a song we would have found on a KISS album to help reach the requisite number of songs, knowing that Paul had supplied the hits. “Firestarter” sounds like Gene was hanging out with Tommy Lee and Tommy said “hey Gene, I jumped on the wanna-be Reznor bandwagon with my solo stuff, you should too.” What’s worst? Tommy actually pulled it off better than Gene. This sound just too forced and formulaic. “Weapons of Mass Destruction” is Gene trying to be Disturbed. The only good thing here is he doesn’t try the cackle. But in the end it’s just awful nu metal.
The rest of the album peters on in much
the same way, Gene’s weak attempt to wrestle some extra dollars out his
faithful fans with a mediocre album, and at the same time trying to remain
relevant to today’s trends. The world could have easily done without this
bad demo tape, but at least Gene got the title right.