I Meant To Listen To: Kiss, “Destroyer”

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to see Kiss with him. Internally, I was quick to think about passing. Kiss has always been that band that I would immediately recoil when thinking about them. I mean who would want to see them unironically? What is this, their twentieth farewell tour? They’ve come across as so corny, like how could you take them seriously? Always putting money over any artistic integrity, it feels like you’ll develop a layer of grime listening to them.

But again, my buddy who loves them really wanted to go and I have never seen them live, so I figure that I’ll go and make the most of it. It’s not that I hate the band. There are a couple of songs I wouldn’t mind hearing in person. I can get down on a few of their more disco-y songs like “Heaven’s On Fire” and “I Was Made For Loving You”, and who honestly doesn’t like “Strutter”? That’s a legit great tune. Plus, I guess, the stage show would be fun and it’ll be a total spectacle full of arena rock’s holy trinity: pyro, lasers, and confetti.

Okay. Now that I think about it, I’m gonna like this after all, aren’t I?

Sure enough, the show was pretty fun. The set list was stacked with a bunch of Klassic Kiss songs (sorry, I had to), including “Black Diamond” which I thought was by The Replacements, but was actually written by Paul Stanley to my surprise. With a very positive experience, I decided to go back and check out some of their albums, instead of one of the many Greatest Hits collections out there.

So. I figured I would check out their most popular album with it’s iconic album cover, 1976’s Destroyer.

There no question that from the band’s inception, Kiss strove to be larger than life in every way imaginable and it was beginning to really take shape on Destroyer. At this point, Kiss were achieving some slightly moderate success, but more importantly a devoted fan base due to their outlandish on stage theatrics. 1975’s Alive!, their “live” record drew a more focused attention to the band. Highlighting their musical strengths and reproducing the experience for the home listener, Alive! was a huge hit and was the band’s first gold record.

Big, bad, and bold with production that could envelop every square inch, Destroyer propelled the band into a new dimension. “Detroit Rock City” kicks off the record and  grips the listener immediately with that unmistakable lead guitar riff and carefree groove throughout. Based off the tragic story of a fan who died in an automobile accident on their way to a Kiss concert, “Detroit Rock City” is a cautionary, yet celebratory ode to life and a message to live your life to its utmost fullest.

The theme of living like there’s is no tomorrow is truly Kiss’s niche, with tracks like “King Of The Night Time World”, “Flaming Youth”,  and the delightfully dance-y “Shout It Out Loud” peppered throughout the album. While listening to Destroyer I was reminded of some of the Kiss songs I liked before diving into their discography because I thought that they were more disco sounding and they were dismissed by their fans at the time. What I had discovered is that Kiss were more of a dance band than I was led to believe. When you boil it down, they were a bunch of kids making music in New York City in the 1970’s in platform boots, leather pants, and glitter. It was honestly hiding in plain sight.

If you aren’t much of a Kiss fan and want to dip your toes into an album after hearing some Greatest Hits collection, Destroyer is a great album to start. It’s bombastic, full of swagger, and literally contains the blueprint that the band used ever since. And while the delivery might be slightly dated or even corny some forty-four years later, the message still remains that we should celebrate the moments we have because it could be gone in an instant.

I think back to that show, especially when the anthemic “Rock and Roll All Nite” was blasting in the arena with streamers rocketing in the air and confetti raining from the rafters. I would catch glimpses of my friend shouting out the lyrics with the most joyous energy you could imagine. I knew I had made the right decision going the that show. The experience continues to live on every time I throw a Kiss album on.  I’m now listening with a new appreciation, longing to re-capture that same emotional response I witnessed from my buddy not too long ago.

Isn’t that what this is all about?

If you don’t feel good every way you could
Don’t sit there brokenhearted
Call all your friends in the neighborhood
And get the party started
Don’t let them tell you that there’s too much noise
They’re too old to really understand
You’ll still get rowdy with the girls and boys
‘Cause it’s time for you to take a stand
Shout it, shout it, shout it out loud

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