Album Review – ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader
IF Ace Frehley was drawing up a list back in the late 1970s of people who might one day trash his legacy, hotel concierge, auto panel beaters, drug dealers – and even himself – would have been at the top of the page.
Little did he know that the people who would do it most effectively would be two of his bandmates, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
Before and after the Rock’N’Roll Hall of Fame induction in April, the two camps that the original members of KISS have become – Stanley/Simmons v Frehley/Criss – have been cruel, cutting and flat-out heartless towards each other.
The victims of such tawdriness have been us. Many of us – and I include some of the world’s most accomplished musicians in this ‘club’ – only became interested in rock’n’roll because of KISS. We spent our first pocket money on one of their records, we had the 1978 tour mirror, played the pinball, collected the cards, plastered our bedrooms with the posters. In Australia, we even licked the iceblock.
The only thing that makes it vaguely palatable that all four members of KISS have released biographies portraying those in the rival camp as either greedy or drug-fucked is that most of us have grown to accept KISS had limitations anyway.
Even if all four members had stayed together and maintained the illusion of camaraderie, we would still have moved on – some of us to Radiohead, others to Slayer.
But to hear that members did not – or could not – play on KISS’ own albums (including the alleged ‘reunion record’ Psycho Circus) is like having Superman say in a comic book that Batman was a jerk, or Ironman call Wonder Woman a slut.
It leaves you questioning your own childhood, and questioning the things that make you what you are today; in this case, the very essence of what got us interested in rock’n’roll.
The fact Ace’s latest record is called Space Invader at first struck me as being somewhat desperate, in the same way that Tommy Thayer singing a song called “Outta This World” is vaguely pathetic.
But as soon as you hit play on the title track, something wondrous happens. The years become a blur as things go into reverse, back past new pop, Nu Metal, grunge, hair metal, back as far as – at least – 1978. Everything that has happened since is, for the duration of Space Invader anyway, erased.
This is not a metal record. It’s not a glam rock record. It’s a rock’n’roll record, full of hooks and fun. It’s an aural comic book, with all the glory and simplicity that implies.
“Space Invader” is a reliable indication of how surprisingly strong the former Paul Frehley’s vocals are throughout, “Gimme A Feeling” is Chuck Berry chuga-chug boogie and you’ll love “I Wanna Hold You” if you can still remember “Talk To Me” on Countdown in 1980
We may not intellectualise this, but hard rock used to attract young males because it was aspirational. It gave us a road map to freedom and self-improvement. Exhibit A: “Change”, the best track here. “I give you my command: pick yourself up and change!” says the seven years sober Frehley.
“Toys” boasts a very early KISS riff, sort of like “Watchin’ You”, and “Immortal Pleasures’ is a semi-acoustic, reflective delight. Ace has done “Dolls”, “Remember Me” and “A Little Below The Angels” as trial runs for this accomplished gem. “I reached the top, there’s no more need for climbing,” he croons.
The deliciously digestible riff rock continues with “Inside The Votex”, before the soda fountain-and-bubblegum fun of “What Every Girl Wants”, complete with unselfconscious backing vocals and the line “I’ll give you more than a walk in the park, oh yeah!”
“Past The Milky Way” is dedicated to Ace’s fiancé Rachal Gordon, who contributed to the record. Some of the axework during the verses is just “classic” – there’s just no more descriptive word for it. “My friends tell me when we’re together, I’m a better man,” the Spaceman exhorts, nodding to a dark past.
The nod becomes a gesticulation on “Reckless”, also semi-acoustic and ineffably catchy. Then there’s the uninhibited, celebratory cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker”. Hey you with the headphones, do you realise you are smiling?
Thankfully, the “Fractured Mirror” pantheon has finished – or paused anyway – with the instrumental track to end Space Invader. Instead, “Starship” brings things to a gentle, agreeable, fitting conclusion. “Did Anybody see George Jetson?” Ace asks, with a familiar cackle.
On first listen, you may like some songs and not others. But here’s the catch; even the songs you don’t like will be stuck in your head … in a good way.
Look, I have a baby blue lightning bolt on my right forearm. I might be biased – but this is the album of the year. Space Invader will undo much of the damage all that KISS bickering had done to your faith. KISS WASN’T just a marketing exercise that exploited 12-year-old you, ACE WAS and IS a great guitarist, make-up or not, you WEREN’T a gullible fool for worshiping him.
It’s official: Ace Frehley is a superhero again.
The rest of the original band probably still have some work to do to do; as Ace sings on “Immortal Pleasures”: “I’ve seen it all. There’s no more need for fighting”.
ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader
Album Review – ACE FREHLEY – Space Invader
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