Reviewer: Max Burbank
Review: When Rolling Stone reviewed “Destroyer” in 1976, the said it was the best studio album the band had ever done. They also said it sucked. Twenty-seven years later, it made their list of the top 500 albums of all time. Granted, it was 496, but still. Reevaluation is a wonderful thing.
This was the first Kiss album I ever bought. I was fourteen, and I didn’t just love this album, I wanted to marry it. Even at fourteen I did have a nagging suspicion Kiss was a little campy, a little over the top, but when I cued up “God of Thunder” I bought the whole deal. It didn’t matter that Paul Stanley pranced around the stage with pursed lips like a very butch Harlequin porcelain doll; It didn’t matter that when interviewed Ace Freely appeared to be border line retarded or that the drummer was a kitty cat; It didn’t matter that balancing atop their foot and a half tall platform shoes sometimes made them look like they were straining at stool; For me the whole thing was Gene. Blood spitting, fire breathing, God of Thunder Gene. The tongue thing, though popular and often imitated I could frankly have done without, but the rest was adolescent dynamite.
Bob Ezrin produced “Destroyer” giving it the Orchestration and sound effects he was known for when working with Alice Cooper. He also wrote most of the songs, making this as much his album as it is theirs, but the swelling ranks of the Kiss Army didn’t know that and would never have believed it anyway. For the first time, it gave the three chord bellowing band a sound theatrical enough to match their make-up, armor and circus tricks. Naysayers have always held the explosions and grease paint where meant to distract you from how awful their music was, but that misses the point entirely. Kiss wasn’t music, it was an experience, and Ezrin was able to make that happen on vinyl. Prior to destroyer, dedicated fans had to use their imaginations to fill out the experience, powers already overtaxed simply by stomaching cultural existence in that bicentennial year. The full church choir used on “Great Expectations” sticks in my mind more than any other single example. The use of four part choral harmony to enhance lyrics about a presumably female fans carnal desires are inflamed by the bands performance is still oddly fresh after more than two decades.
No discussion of “Destroyer” would be complete without mention the bands biggest hit and my least favorite song, “Beth”. Historically, this is the trend setting rock ballad that opened the door for future sentiment laced pap, encouraging legions of hirsute metal heads to explore their softer feminine side. I think an argument can be made that this song is responsible for the band Journey. I always felt it was a mistake to let Peter Chris out from behind the drums where you couldn’t see him. The site of a grown man belted into a tight leather suit wearing kitty make up sitting at a grand piano lit by candle abra, crooning that his sweetheart would need to wait a few more hours because he and the “Boys” couldn’t “Find that sound” always took me out of the moment as far as Kiss was concerned. What do I know, it was a huge top forty hit and whatever the lyrics of “Great Expectations” implied, probably garnered Kiss their first female listeners. For me, it jarred, but failed to ruin, a totally awesome album.
For a long time I held on to Kiss memorabilia from the seventies, because I always imagined I’d want to prove to my kids that such a phenomenon ever took place. Lo and Behold, I don’t need to, as I have grown to parenthood and they are still here. I think “Destroyer” made that possible.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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