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Album review: Kiss' 'Sonic Boom'

Kiss It's amazing that another rock band thought of selling its new album through a big-box retailer before Kiss did: If these greasepaint glam gods didn't invent the notion of pop-as-commodity, they definitely perfected it. Some 35 years after the band's debut album, they're back selling a fresh studio disc exclusively through Wal-Mart, where you'll presumably find "Sonic Boom" stocked near the toilet paper and the Pop-Tarts.

Perhaps there's a discount if you buy more than 10 copies at a time.

Not surprisingly, given Kiss' bigger-is-better ethos, "Sonic Boom" is actually more than just a new studio album -- it's a three-disc package that also includes a rerecorded greatest-hits set and a live DVD, all for $12. That works out to about one riff for every 10 cents, pretty reasonable, even during a recession.

The 11 new songs, Kiss' first since 1998's "Psycho Circus," hardly deviate from the band's time-proven formula. That means whoa-whoa-whoa vocal chants, thundering arena-rock grooves and many, many suggestions from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons that the women in Kiss' audience -- that women anywhere, really -- are wearing more clothing than they need to.

Will any of these tracks make the next greatest-hits set Kiss is sure to release in a couple of years? It seems unlikely; nothing here is as catchy as "Rock & Roll All Nite" or "Detroit Rock City," both of which still sound insanely great when Kiss plays live.

See for yourself when the band hits Staples Center on Nov. 25.

-- Mikael Wood

"Sonic Boom"
Two stars
Comments () | Archives (47)

Have any of you critics listened to the album? I doubt it. Especially if you say Elder and Unmasked are better. I am a 20 year KISS fan and I must say this is their best album in 30 years. It would have been even better if Ace and Peter were there but I will take what I can get. I personally feel this album will takes its place almong the first 6 studio albums. Yeah, there may be some cheese in there but this is KISS the band from 70s cheese.

This is a formula album. Nothing sounds like the Real KISS to me, but it has some catchy songs. My faves are Russian Roulette, Modern Day Delilah, and Say Yeah. This is the best album since...well, Psycho Circus. I hate that Tommy and Eric are dressed like Ace and Peter. That REALLY sucks. To make matters worse they play, sing and write like Ace and Peter. I can see why many die hard fans have finally given up on Kiss. A true die hard fan would boycott this album and tell Paul and Gene to stop destroying their legacy.

I don't understand why critics hold musicians to different level of integrity simply because they want to sell their product. Why don't they hold themselves to the same standards? When I read Mikael Wood's review just a moment ago, it was next to an advertisement to a Nissan Cube which is one of the ugliest vehicles I have ever seen. Mikael should be ashamed of himself. And I doubt very much that this review will be amongst the best reviews the LA Times has done.

Regarding Kiss, I just bought this album and can't wait to hear it. I've seen two performances recently on Lettermen and they were great.

I give it 4 stars out of 4. It's a Kiss fan's dream. That's all the reviews should say. Kiss can go gold with just their fans.

Did you actually listen to the album? Its no great work of art, but your comments are actually about the band and have really nothing to do with the album, yes this follows the basic KISS formula, thats just it, they have been missing this with their passed efforts, all songs written within the band, produced and performed by the band, a band effort, "Nobodys Perfect" is probably the best overall KISS track, but "Say Yeah" and "Stand" should make the playlist, "Modern Day Delilah" is catchy but wears thin, overall this is a good rock and roll album.

Do I like the album, yes, is is better then "Psycho Circus", for the most part, it is better then about half the albums they've done, a classic, a couple songs, would it be better with Ace and Peter,NO! I love Ace but lets be honest, he cant sing, i bought ANOMALY for emotinal reasons, listened once, grimaced and put it away. "Fox on the run" and "Fractured Quantum" are on my ipod, but its awful, Peter, love him, glad he's better from the breast cancer, but his last effort was sub-par and his last tour of duty was noticably weak,give Eric and Tommy their due, they are good players and fit in well. KISS has to endore, you dont close a business, when you replace workers, the Yankees did not go away when Mantle was gone, will the day come, when KISS is gone ,YES, but not today, this is todays KISS paying resrect to yesterdays KISS, if your gonna bitch about it your too old. By the way im 46, been a fan since 76, im a teacher, have 5 kids and yes they are fans. So please dont think Im a homer and think they can do no wrong, because they can, I hate the new stage for one and as far as calling it the Sonic Boom Tour, play more than 3 songs, and the stuff just cost way too much i have a house and car payment, if Gene wants my $, i need a better deal.

I listened to it. Probably 20 times already. I don't like how some critics are bashing Psycho Circus. 'Say Yeah' is probably the only song good enough to even be on Psycho Circus. So, it is probably best not to compare any albums with the Original members.

I love every single minute of the Psycho Circus album and to this day I don't skip over any of the songs. Psycho Circus needed more tracks, but it is kinda cool because it leaves you wanting more just like other great KISS albums!! All the classics have 9 or 10 tracks so I'm happy it didn't turn me off with filler tracks like Sonic Boom does.

I have been a fan since 1975 and here is my honest review of the new album:

Modern Day Delilah:
Good song. Not as good as the song Psycho Circus, but its pretty cool. Sounds like more time was spent on this one compared to the rest of this album.
"Queen to slave"...that's cool. Best song lyrically.

Russian Roulette:
Not a great song, but it is my favorite track from Gene on this album.

Never Enough:
I never really liked 80s hair metal, so this song doesn't work for me at all. Not album-worthy. Lyrically, it seems like a way to open the show. Who knows, it Might be good in concert?
I skip this one usually.

I Know (Nobody's Perfect):
Typical dumbass lyrics are usually expected from Gene. Has a 70's vibe, but it would not make it on any previous Kiss album -- maybe Gene's first solo album? Cool, but not a great song, so I would not be surprised if they release this as their next single. =)

I like this one. Reminds me of the Revenge album. The chorus is catchy. Not their best, but it is cool to hear Paul and Gene trade off lead vocals. I doubt Paul and Gene are close friends, so it is not very believable. The bridge doesn't fit, but I like the pretty part after the bridge.

Hot and Cold:
Another weak Gene song. The only good thing about this one is the fact that it ends -- the fade out is pretty cool, but when he sings "you're gonna be in misery.." I have to skip the track.

All For The Glory:
Good song, but Eric not only dresses like Peter, he plays and tries to sing like Peter too. How sad. This song would be much better if I could hear Paul and Gene singing on the chorus.
The guitar solo (if Tommy is actually playing) reminds me of Bob Kulick trying to play like Ace Frehley. All of the solos are imitations of Ace, but not all of them fit each song. The bridge is growing on me, but its not very good.

Danger Us:
Dumb song. I listened to it a few times, but I always skip this one now. This song should not be on the album. Bad choice.
Paul's voice sounds strained.

I'm An Animal:
Pretty good Gene song. I liked this one when I first heard it, but its no War Machine or God of Thunder. Reminds me of something from Creatures of the Night era. The bridge is cool! And look, another Ace Frehley solo. They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Not sure they are trying to flatter Ace though.

When Lightning Strikes:
Awful. I Really Wish there were some way to delete this one from my CD...it is embarrassing!

Say Yeah:
This one would have fit perfectly on Psycho Circus -- the chord structure is practically the same as PC during the chorus. I would not be surprised to hear it was written back then. But the bridge isn't very good. The solo starts out cool, but Tommy seems to get lost.
I really love the slow part with Paul after the solo. That's great. This is my favorite song on Sonic Boom.

Overall, the songs sound like they spent about 20 minutes putting each song together. This album really needed a good rock ballad like Forever or even a soft rock song like Hard Luck Woman, imo.

So I choose Psycho Circus, the state of the art production really works well and the songwriting is top-notch compared to Sonic Boom. This feels more like a business agreement than an album from a real band. Like I said earlier, true die hards should boycott this album and tell Paul and Gene to stop destroying their legacy.

-Former Diehard

Ok I just bought the new CD and for KISS being around for 35 years and released 20 studio albums and 4 live albums they are able to come out with yet another great album. You critics have always been hard on KISS. Face it they've been on top of the world since the release of KISS Alive, they've made 20 albums that have sold really well. obviously they are doing something right because they have millions of fans and counting and with in the first week of the release of Sonic Boom they almost top the charts. Now tell me that KISS is such a terrible band when they have millions of fans of stuck by them for 35 years and the fans get bigger through each generation. so you can take your poor rating of KISS and Shove it

besides i would the rate the album 4 out of 5 stars. KISS will also be in the rock and roll hall of fame

Being a diehard KISS fan since the age of 5....... Yes that was in 1987. I have to agree with some things and disagree as well. In a nutshell, I'm very impressed with the feel of the record but it definitely could have been produced much better. It sounds like a "modern day demo" in my opinion. The songs have the ability to be really great but it didn't seem like they took the time to perfect it. I don't want the album to sound too overproduced like Def Leppard's Hysteria but they could have at least made the album less "Rough around the edges." Only my opinion here, I still love the band and I think that they sound GREAT with Tommy and Eric, much better than the dinosaur act they had w/ Ace and Peter, who really didn't want to be there in my opinion. KISS is a band that has been overlooked for far TOO LONG and thank god they're on their way to being inducted in to the R&R Hall of fame but I don't blame them one bit if they tell those AHoles to Shove It!

Since Psycho Circus was brought up I am comparing the two. Just for my own fun.
Overall I like Sonic Boom better. Psycho Circus seemed like a forced record just to get out new material. Sonic was on their own time, when they were ready. Don’t get me wrong, I love Psycho Circus, but overall, Sonic Boom. However, favorite song of the two albums is from Psycho Circus. I broke it down a little in comparing songs:
---Featured songs – Psycho Circus vs. Modern Day Delilah
While I love MDD, hands down Psycho Circus!!! PC is one of my favorite songs all time! Absolutely love the concept, the intro, and the song. For some reason Paul and Gene don’t give this song enough credit. It should be a staple on every tour. Finish a song lights go out, the circus music intro starts, and then YEAHHHH!!!!! Lights go on and the spinning clown head comes forward on the screen. Awesome.
--- Within vs Im An Animal
Within is good, but to me, too long and slow. I really like Im An Animal. It isn’t God of Thunder, but great. It really grew on me, and is a perfect song for Gene solo.
--- I Pledge Allegiance vs Say Yeah
This is close. I feel these are the second best songs on the albums. Love them both, and both should be in concert….Slight edge to Say Yeah.
--- Danger Us vs Raise Your Glasses
Raise Your Glasses. Both are concert worthy. Raise Your Glasses doesn’t get enough credit either.
--- Stand vs We Are One
Like both, going with Stand.
--- Never Enough vs You Wanted the Best
Never Enough. Never Enough would sound great live, On Psycho Circus tour they should have played YWTB to end it before the encore.
--- Into the Void vs When Lightning Strikes
Of course Into the Void. The song is good, but just like Within too long. I will give credit to Tommy though on his song. I know everyone will say they are trying to make it Ace like, which it is obvious. However, when I hear it, it also reminds me of a Black N Blue sound. I like it. Also, Tommy is a better singer.
--- I Finally Found A Home vs All For The Glory
It is a wash. If I had to I would go with Peter for old times sake. AFTG is a pretty good song, but Eric just sounds too much like Pete. I don’t think Eric is changing his voice, I think that is his singing voice, but it is just too close. I will say Eric can sing much better than Pete. Pete never had much of a voice.
---Russian Roulette I didn’t know what to compare it to. Very good song. Genes second best song on the CD.
Dreamin is good, not great. Hot and Cold, Yes I Know, and Journey of 1,000 yrs ok. They should be on Gene’s A...hole CD. ‘Maybe its time to take off your cloths?’ Corny!!!!! .........Just my opinion!!!
I love Sonic Boom and it was worth the wait!!!!!!!

Kiss should come back after this tour for a full Sonic Boom tour with these song included:
Psycho Circus, Modern Day Delilah, Im An Animal, I Pledge Allegiance, Danger Us, Raise Your Glasses, Never Enough, Stand, Russian Roulette, Say Yeah.


I did enjoy Sonic Boom, but the novelty of something new has already worn off. Classic, My Ass.

Modern Day Delilah the only song worth listening too! Tommy's ripping off every Ace Frehley lick is an embarressment! But that's what Gene & Paul would have told him to play I guess? If the album does any good, they should sling some money to Vinnie Vincent, because they owe him big time for hauling their ass out of the fire back in 82'!

I seem to have missed something...where was the actual review? Tell me, Mikael...would you describe the generic paragraphs you offered us here (presumably as part of the deal for your continued gainful employment at the LAT) more a product of your contempt for the subject matter, or more a general, lazy disinterest for the niche you've been assigned to write about by the paper?

Anyone who can't hear the similarity between classic KISS and this album needs to get their ears checked by an audiologist. If all of the saboteur reviewers hell-bent on posting bul***it reviews would exit stage left, maybe we could get back to honest commentary.

If you're a huge fan of the latter, unpainted KISS years, this album may or may not be for you. However, if classic KISS is more your thing then you'll no doubt recognize this offering for what it is; an homage and tribute to the past, targeting fans who cherish this bands early, 70's sound.

While I do enjoy latter hits a la "Lick It Up" and "Forever", I'm rather glad they devolved this time around.

My first exposure to Sonic Boom came without any preconceived idea of what to expect, other than disappointment, perhaps. What an unexpected surprise.

Well, gotta say, this album is much better than Psycho Circus to my ears because it maintains the level of song writing throughout the whole record established by the first song. That didn't seem the case to this Kiss fan on Psycho Circus. Admit that it isn't an album on the level of Love Gun but I think it surpasses some of the lower level releases like Animalize which was relatively weak.

I have always prefered the orignals in any band, but also realize that some of these guys are getting pretty old....not sure Peter Criss is that up for it these days with the health problems he dealt with. And lets face it, these guys without make-up wouldn't look too good these days...so make-up it is and they made the decision to stay original and not keep coming up with new characters...Tommy Thayer is good but not as original as Vinnie Vincent so it makes sense in my opinion if they are going to have him to have him have the original make-up.

Besides, Ace said in a interview just published that he doesn't dream or long to be in KISS anymore....that didn't sound too good to be honest, you want people that are starving and begging to be in the band more than someone who could take it or leave it. Thayer probably is SO stoked to be there.

I think the first rule of doing an album review is to hear the damn thing first but ...hell, thats only what I think..RIGHT????
Well.... I heard it and it is awesome and if you are a KISS fan u will love it 2 .

Puke! I swear to god...what the hell happened to this band from 1979 on...? The acid must have been good. What a shame.

Is it the best kiss album ? No. Does it have the classic Kiss sound, yep. A lot better than Psycho Circus. Its fun, Kiss aren't into the virtuosity thing, they are sing along songs. The "rock star in his own mind" here attacking everyone's posts obviously has not had female companionship since "Beth." No I'm not a rocket scientist, only a mechanical engineer but what does music have to do with a technical profession, just more of someone with a limited grasp of life thinking they are some sort of intellectual giant. Anyway give it a listen if your a Kiss fan.

Greatest album ! I love Kiss !

This guy is full of crap.
Sonic Boom is epic, although I did find a few songs a bit cliche, as if Gene is parodying himself, but the music still is enjoyable. For some reason this album makes me think more of the 80's/90's-era KISS more so than the mid-70's KISS, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. 4.5 stars.

Sonic Boom is a great record through out, every song is catchy! This is an un-professional attemp by a critic to mislead the public. Sonic Boom is a very good record people!

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