|Kiss (source: Peter Cade/Central Press/Getty Images)|
Among contemporary rock & roll bands, the music of Kiss comes the closest to comparing favorably with buffalo farts. Allowing for a few aberrational songs, they, too, do not promise to reveal the meaning of life, make the whole world sing, or any of that. They scream elemental need, placing as much emphasis on words like "I wanna" as the Ramones, only with no condescending satire to sink them in Middle America.
One of their most dramatic stage moments comes in a break, when [guitarist Paul] Stanley faces the audience alone and gets them chanting: "IiiiIIIiiahah WaAAaaNT YooOOooOOooOOu." He sounds uncomfortably close to Robert Plant, but the moment obliterates the known world aside from primal craving. None of this woman-you-need-love chivalry, none of this hold-your-hand subtlety. (Kiss had to drop "Hard Luck Woman," a song about a woman being hard luck until she found a man, because it was getting lousy audience reaction.) The known world, aside from primal craving, is a vast conspiracy to most teenagers pouring into the job market with no intellectual skills, thanks to the massive rupture that is American education. Ask a Kiss fan why he/she likes the band, and he/she will likely stare at you with vague hostility as the words fail to articulate in the cerebral cortex, and it's too much effort to dig them out. The smarter ones notice the press pass pinned to your shirt and beg to be taken backstage. Ask to take their picture, and they preen with all the bravado their fresh hormones can muster. What's important is declaring "I" to the conspiracy.
Which is transcendence of the inner conspiracy that is growing hair and zits in strange places all over their recently nubile bods. No better way to forget the inexorable march of biology than to lose your identity to four guys who have stepped out of their mundane bodies altogether and simultaneously wallow in those disgusting urges your parents would rather forget. It is pagan religion for adolescents. Bombs, flame throwers (sometimes as much from the audience as the stage), Simmons spitting blood and fire, all of them leaping and running up and down stairways in their platforms, Frehley's guitar smoking and bursting into flames, Criss' six-foot glowing demon cat statues and drum set that levitates 30 feet in the air – attending a Kiss concert is surviving the Normandy invasion. You walk out and you are one of the gods' chosen few, a survivor who can go home and face the enormous blackheads on his nose like a man. Or at least have the inspiration to paint them different colors. Kiss is the greatest act since death.
The four band members stare intently into the mirrors in their dressing room and smear on makeup as Bill Aucoin, president of Aucoin Management, announces that "Beth," their hit ballad of 1976, has tied with "Disco Duck" for best song of the year in the People's Choice Awards.
"What did we win?" says Stanley. "A hundred pounds of dog food?"
- Charles M Young, 'Kiss: The Pagan Beasties of Teenage Rock', Rolling Stone, 7 April 1977