Night Train doesn’t depart from the Georgia singer’s usual country lyric tropes — small-town pride, trucks and drinking — and he sets his nondistinct nasal voice against stereotypical songs that are aimed at the arena rafters with Bon Jovi/Mellencamp-style rock guitar crunch.
You’ve heard it all before. But while Wanted Dead or Alive rewrites like the admittedly catchy Wheels Rollin’ dominate and the 15-track album seems to go on forever with little variety in subject or sound, Aldean scores with the vivid Black Tears, a story song about a downtrodden stripper with a cocaine jones.
Download: Wheels Rollin’, Black Tears.
Kiss, Monster, UMe * *
Kiss’ 2009 album Sonic Boom, its first in 11 years, was a surprising return to ‘70s form, a decided and successful bid to replicate the hook-filled, Neanderthal rawk of 1976’s Rock and Roll Over.
Monster, Kiss’ 20th studio album, features the Sonic Boom lineup of founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and two hired hands who aren’t Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. The album is like the Rock and Roll Over follow-up Love Gun in that it’s a bit bigger and heavier in sound, with great avalanches of hard rock guitars and primal bass recorded in primitive, warm analog. But unlike the killer Love Gun, the songwriting — even by Kiss standards — is dreadful.
Stanley (who produces) and Simmons haven’t a fresh idea and merely repeat sex and fire-spewing themes that they could get away with in their 20s and 30s but which now sound tired and ridiculous as they approach Medicare age. Simmons, for the second album in a row, even commands a conquest to “let your backbone slide,” a line that was gross the first time around.
The music, though suitably loud and proud, similarly has little traction and it’s telling that the two best, most classic-Kiss songs — Outta This World and the cowbell-clanging All for the Love of Rock ‘n’ Roll — are sung by the Frehley and Criss imposters exactly as Frehley and Criss would approach them.
The influential Kiss certainly commands respect for nearly 40 years of enduring hard rock staples and deserves long-overdue inclusion in the still clueless Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Monster, which takes its space on the bottom shelf alongside Kiss misfires like Hot in the Shade and Asylum, doesn’t make a case for continued existence.
Download: Outta This World, All for the Love of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
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