My love for KISS over the last 40 plus years is fairly well documented. I have always taken pride in how important the music was to me from the very beginning. The imagery and personas were definitely a drawing point too. But more than the toys or dolls or posters etc, I wanted the records. Money for stuff like that was pretty scarce in my home growing up. So I often faced the choice. Did I want a KISS lunch box or a copy of Dressed To Kill? Most times I would go with the record.
To their credit, KISS in their prime were constantly evolving. From the S/T debut in 1974 to 1998’s Psycho Circus, KISS never once made a record that sounded like any of their other ones. The overall formula stayed true to a certain driving hard rock standard. But whether it’s the polished demo sound of the first record, the garage rock production of the follow up Hotter Than Hell, the pop rock sound of Unmasked or the dark and brooding feel that made up the lyrics of the temporarily shelved masterpiece Carnival of Souls, KISS has provided their fan base with a catalog more diverse than many of them probably realize.
The music of KISS has been something I often leaned on in life. At times the lack of respect for my favorite band would make me angry. But I am older now and I am more likely to get upset over something Gene tweets than any disrespect leveled at the band. But the music will always take me back. Revenge will remind me of hanging with my college roommate in Rochester, MN. Love Gun will take me back to the days of riding the bus in first grade. Lick It Up will always remind me of my future step-mom trying to buy my cooperation. Like many of you reading this, I feel I have listened to KISS so much I can self-appoint myself an expert on the matter. Plus people love lists. So I made a list.
This list was made using all officially released songs with the exception of the solo albums and appearances on tribute records. Why? Because I didn’t feel like including them. It was made by one person (me) using only my personal opinion based on years of digesting these songs on almost every format in just about every possible setting. And like all lists this will be debated which is sad because you’re all wrong. Seriously I had fun making this list and I just hope it starts some fun dialog. Because to me, no band is more fun to talk about.
219 “My Way” – Jesus fuck this song is horrible. “If you don’t pay my game I won’t play!” Just promise you won’t play this song Paul and we’re good.
218 “I Finally Found My Way” – Was this really the best you could do to give Peter a song on Psycho Circus? This feels like punishing the fans for wanting a reunion of the original lineup.
217 “Hot and Cold” – Gene has been known to mail it in from time to time. To say he mailed it in when writing this song is an insult to mailing it in.
216 “Beth” – For the life of me I can’t understand why Paul Stanley is dead set on taking any credit from Peter for this pile of shit. Schlocky 70’s Yacht Rock. As much as it was a hit, most people are shocked to find out it’s a KISS song. The fact that this song is still in their setlist, as an encore no less, is even more shocking.
215 “Danger Us” – Danger You. Danger Me. Danger Us. Get it? If reading that didn’t make you cringe then you may not like music.
214 “fanfare” – Even this little renaissance horn fest is better than the previous 5 songs. And it’s barely a song.
213 “Carr Jam 81” – Never one to pass up a chance to stick it to Ace Frehley, KISS put this on the end of Revenge as a tribute to the recently deceased Eric Carr. While a nice guesture did they really have to pretend that this song didn’t already have a name? And that it was on an Ace Frehley album? Maybe the first frontal example of the Stanley pettiness.
212 “Shandi” – CD technology was invented specifically to make it easier to skip this song.
211 “Then She Kissed Me” – A cover of a forgettable sixties song. Their sixth album is just over 3 years the band may have just needed some help filling out a record.
210 “Read My Body” – Gross
209 “I’m an Animal” – Dammit Jim I’m an Animal not a songwriter!
208 “Modern day Delilah” – If going through the motions had a sound. This would be it.
207 “Russian Roulette” – Gene has never drank or done drugs. Or apparently gambled. Some of the stupidest lyrics from the Demon. And that is an accomplishment in itself.
206 “Wall of Sound” – Never should have made it past a boom box recording.
205 “Never Enough” – When you are stealing songs from Poison you’ve reached a new low.
204 “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)” – Another song Gene slapped together from old pieces he’s been kicking around for decades. Pass.
203 “Odyssey” – A very interesting Paul vocal on this Tony Powers track. It’s not a key he sang in a lot. Some might say this is an example of why. Personally it’s the main reason to listen to this song. It’s fun when the Starchild reaches. But this song can be a bit taxing.
202 “Bang Bang You” – Paul learns to count.
201 “Just A Boy” – We are on a stretch of atypical Paul songs. I think Just A Boy and The Oath both would have been stronger tracks had he not used the falsetto. That’s not to say he didn’t nail the falsetto. He did. It just feels unnecessary.
200 “Anyway You Want It” – They must have really needed 3 more minutes of music to record this cover. Hard pass.
199 “Boomerang” – Hot In The Shade would make a great 10 or 11 track album. This is not one of those tracks. Great drum track from the late Eric Carr. Worth it for that alone.
198 “You Love Me To Hate You” – I’d love it if Paul hated this song enough to not record it.
197 “Back to the Stone Age” – Gene felt he needed a musical reminder that he is a caveman.
196 “Dark Light” – Ace was the hero of the two records previous to Music from the Elder. This track is a step backwards in his songwriting. Amazing guitar solo on a song that is memorable for how difficult it is to get through.
195 “Two Sides of the Coin” – A fairly stupid song with embarrassing lyrics.
194 “Talk To Me” – Ace flexing some pop music chops. Not good enough to be higher on the list but we’re leaving the truly dreadful tracks.
193 “Hooligan” – Peter is possibly the strongest singer in KISS. On one hand it would’ve been nice if the powers that be would’ve felt compelled to utilize that more. On the other hand, his biggest success (Beth) pretty much turned him into an unbearable d-bag. But this is a fun song.
192 “Partners In Crime” – One of the four mediocre new songs on KILLERS. A foreign only release during KISS’ lost years. The oddity and unattainable nature of these tracks make them seen shinier than they are. This is the worst of the lot.
191 “Love Theme From KISS” – Originally part of a song called Acrobat, Love Theme was stripped down to an instrumental track on their debut record.
190 “Rain” – A great Paul vocal. I kind of want to rank this higher but I couldn’t justify it.
189 “Escape From the Island” – A better instrumental than Love Theme. Cool drum break from new member Eric Carr.
188 “I’m Alive” – A marginally better way to end side one than “My Way”.
187 “I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You” – On the high end of Paul’s vocal spectrum. Impressive. Just not a very good song.
186 “Who Wants to Be Lonely” – One of those songs Paul Stanley insists upon the listener. Rarely with good results.
185 “Keep Me Coming” – See “Who Wants To Be Lonely”
184 “Get All You Can Take” – See “Keep Me Coming”
183 “Thrills in the Night” – See “Get All You Can Take”
182 “Sure Know Something” – See “Thrills In The Night”
181 “Danger” – The worst song on COTN ain’t that bad.
180 “Outta This World” – Did I really rank this ahead of Danger. I must have been drunk. Whatever. Coming in at 180 is hardly an achievement.
179 “Take Me Down Below” – Kind of fun but not a great track.
178 “No, No, No” – You had me at No. Cool breakdown with Bruce and Eric. I’d rather have a four minute track of those two rocking out.
177 “Radar For Love” – Asylum had a lot of dogs. The verse melody ain’t bad and Paul is in his prime around this time. This song proves that.
176 “The Devil Is Me” – An unconvincing vocal from Gene. Not a good song.
175 “Little Caeser” – After hearing some of his demos, I really think KISS missed the mark with Eric’s song writing. There is at least one Paul song on every record he played on that was worse than the stuff he was bringing. Considering how fast they gave Singer and Thayer tracks it feels sort of shitty we didn’t get more Eric Carr music from his time in the band.
174 “Eat Your Heart Out” – Cool acapella intro.
173 “Jungle” – Great bass line played by Bruce Kulick. Another example of Paul going out of his comfort zone with positive results. He sort of snakes along before blowing you away with the chorus. Not a song I go back to often but I’m happy when I do.
172 “Long Way Down” – When Paul’s voice started to deteriorate there were spots where it almost seemed like an enhancement. This song is an example of what I mean. Raspier than his typical tracks but still a very strong vocal track. Maybe his last.
171 “I Walk Alone” – This probably belongs farther down the list but Bruce deserves some love. The music is solid but Bruce isn’t a strong singer. This would have been better as a Gene track.
170 “Last Chance” – Making this list has raised my appreciation for Monster. Which isn’t a great record but it’s not the turd Sonic Boom is. This song ain’t bad.
169 “When The Lightning Strikes” – I’d like this song better if it wasn’t such a paint by numbers stab at writing a song in the “Spaceman” narrative. It’s deservedly penalized for being created for the sole purpose of supporting the revisionist history of the members of KISS always only being characters that can replaced like an actor in a play.
168 “All For The Love of Rock N Roll” – A little too “It’s Alright” from Paul’s 78’ solo album to rank higher.
167 “All For The Glory” – Apparently if Eric Singer only gets to sing a song with “All” in the title. Catchy.
166 “Freak” – For whatever reason I prefer when KISS isn’t writing about tits, ass and underage girls. Paul particularly is a person with a lot of layers. It’s nice when he tries to show some of them in his writing.
165 “Shout Mercy” – Back to singing about getting laid. But I dig this track.
164 “Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell” – Speaking of depth. We get just a little from the demon on this track. We’re getting closer to the good stuff on HITS.
163 “Seduction of the Innocent” – Generally speaking, KISS fans need to lighten up on COS. In many ways it is KISS at its best. As far as I’m concerned the fact I found 162 other KISS songs I think are better than this track shows just how good this band really is.
162 “Tough Love” – A lesser version of “Heart Of Chrome”
161 “In My Head” – A classic Gene monster song. Like most of the tracks on Carnival of Souls, Bruce shines on this track
160 “Stand” – LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER! Like most fans of KISS, I am a sucker for Gene and Paul sharing lead vocals on a song. It’s a shame they didn’t take advantage of their unique dynamic because they have a yin and yang essence when they do. This songs is probably better because of it.
159 “Cold Gin” – The ALIVE! version is superior. As much as this is a staple song for the band, it isn’t that good. It’s an important stepping stone in Ace’s development as a songwriter. But more than likely this song gets me pressing the skip button.
158 “Reason To Live” – A decent power ballad. The chorus always sounded like an 80’s candy bar commercial.
157 “Paralyzed” – Great playing by Bruce. Cool breakdown before the solo as well. I would have liked to heard that with Eric Carr.
156 “King of the Mountain” – Classic 80’s Paul. The production on Asylum was disappointing.
155 “Say Yeah” – I’ve come around a bit on this song. It’s not that bad.
154 “Dirty Livin” – Another song that has grown on me. I didn’t appreciate how good of a singer Peter is when I was younger.
153 “Young and Wasted” – They should’ve let Eric sing this on the record like they did live.
152 “Crazy, Crazy Nights” – A catchy pop metal anthem. Never cared for the lazy talk approach Paul took to the verses but I can still roll the volume up when it comes on.
151 “I Confess” – An out of the box song from an out of the box album. The laid back verse going into the violent chorus is killer.
Only 150 songs left to go. Next week we count down to 101.