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Rock critics and music snobs are wrong about Kiss

Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

If you allow yourself to, it’s easy to love Kiss.

Their first seven albums contain some of the best, purest rock n’ roll of the ‘70s. The original lineup of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss were each solid musicians (and, in the case of the first three, effective songwriters).

Paul and Gene soldiered on with the band after Criss and Frehley’s erratic behavior became too much for them to handle. Though at times they became something of a caricature, it’s clear that Stanley and Simmons genuinely love playing music and the entire Kiss (psycho) circus.

Kiss
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

I’ve never understood the derision that Kiss receives from rock critics (and snobby music fans).

They’re just a simple, fun rock band. Their big songs and singalong choruses get directly to the spirit of rock n’ roll.

The problem for snobby critics and fans is Kiss’ image. Everything is extravagant, from their clothes to their stage presentation to their music. All that is off-putting to people who take themselves too seriously.

Most importantly, and pertinently, Kiss completely lacks pretension.

Kiss
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

Who they are is completely transparent. They are the most unapologetic band in rock history.  Again, critics and music snobs who take themselves too seriously can’t handle it, but that’s their problem.

Ironically, the problem with snobby critics is that they have an image that they are forced to keep up, an image that doesn’t even allow them to consider liking Kiss, whether they would or not. Their free will has been taken away from them in a very real way.

Because they want to be seen as “serious” they prop up okay bands that are artsy (like the Talking Heads) and even some whose music is mostly objectively bad (the Velvet Underground) to keep that image. In that context, they have to hate Kiss.

Fortunately, we aren’t rock critics and music snobs, right? So we can love Kiss.

And we do.

The extravagance of a Kiss show

Kiss band live
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

It is easy to forget that Kiss pioneered many aspects of a rock show that are now so commonplace that they are taken for granted.

Pyrotechnics, elaborate stage designs, extravagant outfits, fervent crowd interaction, and staged “parts” that highlight the different members are only some examples. Alice Cooper was the only other rock act that did anything like this prior to Kiss.

All of it was gloriously on display at the X for their End Of The Road Tour: Gene Simmons’ iconic bass solo and fire-breathing, Tommy Thayer’s “Space Man” moves, drummer Eric Singer’s solo and piano feature “Beth,” and Paul Stanley frantically running around the stage and interacting with the crowd. At one point, he even glided through the air to a mini-stage in the middle of the arena. 

The song selection was pretty standard for a legacy act like Kiss, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

KISS End of The Road Tour at Xcel Energy Center, St Paul, MN.
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams
Kiss Tour at Xcel Energy Center, St Paul, MN.
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

They covered almost all their biggest hits, from 70s classics like “Detroit Rock City,” “I Was Made for Loving You” and (of course) “Rock n’ Roll All Nite” to big, magnificently overdone 80s singles like “Heavens on Fire” and “Lick it Up.”

Kiss standards that don’t get as much airplay, like Gene’s feature “God of Thunder,” “Deuce,” and the title track from Love Gun were played and received with equal enthusiasm. Indeed, they are better songs than their more overplayed material.

Kiss End of The Road Tour at St Paul, MN.
Photo by Tommy Allen Williams

Hardcore Kiss fans were likely the most happy with essential lost singles and deep cuts like “Parasite” (which has one of the greatest riffs in rock history), “Black Diamond,” and “100,000 Years.” They even unearthed Creatures of the Night album track “War Machine.”

Anybody who watched this show and thought that Kiss wasn’t giving it everything they had were just seeing what they wanted to see. Each member, especially Stanley and Simmons, were clearly having a great time presenting this rock n’ roll establishment that they created. Throughout all the glitziness and lineup changes, they have never lost their love and passion for the music.

Those who don’t see that just don’t like music with guts. Let them listen to the Velvet Underground and Sufjan Stevens and weep in their latte.

A Kiss show is kind of like rock n’ roll heaven.

The straightforward rock of their songs legitimizes the bombastic spectacle. Isn’t rock n’ roll supposed to be fun? Isn’t it supposed to be heavy and in-your-face?

If so, Kiss is rock n’ roll.

Click here to read 10 Wild And Shocking Facts About The Band, KISS.

Erik Ritland
Author: Erik Ritland

Music in Minnesota editor Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from the east side of St. Paul. He has released 7 albums and 8 EPs featuring his unique blend of rock n' roll, modern rock, and Americana since 2001. Rambling On, his personal blog and podcast covering music and sports, was launched in 2012. Erik was also Head Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North.

Written by Erik Ritland

Music in Minnesota editor Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from the east side of St. Paul. He has released 7 albums and 8 EPs featuring his unique blend of rock n' roll, modern rock, and Americana since 2001. Rambling On, his personal blog and podcast covering music and sports, was launched in 2012. Erik was also Head Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North.

17 Comments

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  1. KISS has had it’s ups and downs but they’re still there for us! The best rock band that ever existed! Thanks Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy! ❤️

  2. I saw them in Sioux city on the 21st of feb ( just a few days ago ) and it was my first time seeing them ….I thought it was a awesome concert and my son who is 14 loved it….I had heard a couple songs growing up but I wasnt really a fan but I knew who they were and I never thought I would see them live…..glad I went because I thoroughly enjoyed myself …..if given the chance may have to go again to see them ….

  3. Erik Ritland it’s nice to see KISS support; however, you have a few stylistic errors, and you could eliminate your overuse of the word: “that.”

    Otherwise it’s a well-written story.

    Tamara Goertz
    Freelance News Journalist, Calgary

    • Thanks for the compliment.

      I think it flows just fine. You can’t help but overuse some words.

      To briefly critique your comment, the semi-colon is overbearing and makes you come off as trying to sound smart. Be simpler. Read some Hemingway. After all, he started out as a journalist.

  4. Thank you for this article, and finally.saying so perfectly what needed to be said.

    Of course as KISS fans were used to the criticism, we always knew the truth regardless.

  5. It’s not hard to like some Kiss songs. It’s hard to respect them because they seem to love money more than the music, especially Gene.

    That article looses me completely with this line: Because they want to be seen as “serious” they prop up okay bands that are artsy (like the Talking Heads) and even some whose music is mostly objectively bad (the Velvet Underground) to keep that image.

    OK, I like the Talking Heads, but I agree that they are not as good as critics seem to think, but to call the Velvet Underground “mostly objectively bad” is beyond me. Tells me the author may have only heard one VU lp, likely their first, and that’s it. But as one who owns all their studio LP’s, there is no way they could be called “mostly objectively bad” by any stretch.

    • You’re taking that line too seriously. It was meant as an exaggerated rip on the general snobishness of critics and a subset of music fans.

      The songs without Nico on their first record are great. The title track from White Light is great, the rest is garbage. Their self-titled album is their best, except “The Murder Mystery” sucks. As I like to say, “Revolution 9 > “The Murder Mystery.”

      I do also say “Digital Undgerground > Velvet Underground,” and I kind of mean that, too.

      • You may have meant it to be one thing, but it reads like the other. And ultimately, most people aren’t going to scroll through these comments to find this information out.

        The best way to go about conveying what you mean is to actually convey what you mean. A better writer would know this. Good luck with all the negative comments you’re gonna get!

        • I conveyed what I meant. If you, or anybody else, doesn’t understand it, that’s on y’all, not me.

          I don’t write articles for positive comments. I write them to share what I love, convey how I feel, and have a little fun.

          If people don’t get that, that’s fine. They can read something else.

  6. Rock n roll is supposed to be fun and have a good time with it…not something to study or experiment on…with that being said…music critics that study music too seriously are just dumb and will never get it ….

  7. Love KISS, and to hell with the critics who scorn them for not being who they want…

  8. Interesting, but one point you missed is that Kiss is objectively bad. Soooo, that kind of negates the whole article. Sorry you had to waste so many words.

    • I’ve been to a lifetime of concerts and have to disagree. I’ve heard a lot worse and their concerts are truly great. Musically, they are a good, solid, rock band. Sure, musically there are some other bands that may be better. Overall, they are a unique experience. Erik Ritland is spot on.

  9. “They even unearthed Creatures of the Night album track “War Machine.”

    Dude, they play that song more than they rightfully should lol. Great song, but there’s a ton of others I would have rather heard. Especially from “Creatures”.

  10. I’ll see them every time in Chicago ooooooo…GREW UP WITH THEM.
    TEENAGER.. WE USE TO PARTY.
    KISS ALIVE 1. KISS ALIVE 2. IT WAS GOING ON…

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