REVIEW: KISS – Animalize (1984)

Part 21 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!  Still flushing out the last of the lo-fi cell phone pics, sorry about that.

ANIMALIZE

KISS – Animalize (1984)

Exit Vinnie Vincent.  Enter Mark St. John aka Mark Norton, a music teacher that came highly recommended, but had no touring experience.  Looking for the next young hot shot to compete with Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie, Kiss took a chance.

In addition to yet another lineup change and third lead guitar player, there were other fractures setting in.  Gene Simmons was dead set to become a movie star, and played the villain role alongside Tom Selleck in a movie called Runaway, written and directed by Michael Crichton.  Paul Stanley was left to produce the next album.

Paul and Gene recorded in separate studios, shuffling Mark St. John between them when needed.  Gene didn’t play bass on several of Paul’s songs, and studio musicians were brought in to add guitar solos, drum overdubs, and backing vocals.  All songs but one were co-written by outside writers.

Animalize is one of those albums that was hugely popular (2 x platinum I think?). It has a couple hot singles, a couple decent album cuts, but disappointly Animalize is mostly filler. Gene’s material is particularly forgettable and uninspired. It’s like you’re listening to half a band.
Mathematically, here’s how it breaks down:

1. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) – good song
2. Heaven’s On Fire – good song (but overplayed)
3. Burn Bitch Burn – bad
4. Get All You Can Take – great song
5. Lonely Is The Hunter – bad
6. Under The Gun – bad
7. Thrills In The Night – great
8. While The City Sleeps – terrible
9. Murder In High Heels – terrible

4 out of 9 good songs, and not one of them by Gene Simmons. All of Gene’s stuff on Animalize sucked, leaving the kids of the 80’s to think that he was a sideman and Paul was the main guy. Gene also has the worst lyric in Kisstory here: “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”

However, a highlight of the album are some of the solos.  A fast neoclassical/jazz player, St. John was miles away from Kiss’ roots. It was the era of the fast classically trained player. Even so, when the band thought that Mark wasn’t nailing the feel, they asked Bruce Kulick to fill in on two songs.  He appears on “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”.  So, technically Animalize was Bruce’s first Kiss album, although nobody knew at the time that Kulick was destined to replace St. John, who was struck with a freak arthritic condition that left him unable to tour.

Kulick wouldn’t be granted full member status until the next album, while the band felt him out.  Later, St. John too went on to make some great solo work — check out his Magic Bullet Theory CD.

Animalize is far from outstanding. I would rank it among Kiss’ three worst albums, the other two being Hot In The Shade and Psycho-Circus. It’s historically important because of how popular the tour and album were. Most of the good songs, however, can be found elsewhere such as the Kiss box set.

2/5 stars.

Mark St. John passed away in 2007.  Rest in peace.

Advertisements

22 comments

  1. “I want to put my log in your fireplace?” Dude, that’s not terrible, that’s primo stuff! I’m gonna use that tonight!

    I remember that movie, I think. Doesn’t Gene get killed at the end by some spiders or something? And then you think he’s dead but then he’s not quite, yet? If that is the right film, I have to tell you, when we were kids, him popping back up when we thought he was dead scared the crap out of me. Adults saw it coming, and laughed at the stupidity of it (as I likely would now). But when we were little and we saw that part, it spooked me pretty good. Enough for that scene to be memorable, anyway. And hey, way to go Gene, your acting career is a lock. You can terrify small children!

    Like

  2. I’d give this a 4/5 personally.. I’m surprised you didn’t like Under the Gun and I have a soft spot for Burn, Bitch, Burn too! While The City Sleeps has got a cool riff and atmosphere. I’ve Had Enough is brilliant (always reminded me of The Oath on Elder tho). Lonely is the Hunter and Murder in High Heels are both pretty lame. As always, the good Paul Stanley tracks are always worth the price of admission!

    A good bit of filler on this though so I appreciate where your coming from. The 80s KISS is really my favourite era, I got into this stuff before getting a lot of the older albums. Started off with Crazy Nights and went back really!

    Like

  3. I have one anecdote I’d like to share regarding this review. I haven’t mentioned this in any of my reviews, but it’s a pattern I noticed. In a lot of cases, albums that I dislike today are ones that I had crap-quality copies back then. My Animalize was recorded on a crap Scotch 120 minute tape, and you know how well those things worked. Not too well. Sometimes I notice a common thread, that albums I dislike today were sometimes ones that I had a real bad first impression of. Just a thought.

    Like

    1. Hah! No but same guy! Yes, that was Unmasked. He was playing bass along to the record while he was dubbing it for me, but his bass bled through. I listened to the bloody awful version of Unmasked for…jeez. 3 years maybe? I’m trying to think of when it was reissued on cassette and I’m thinking ’88. So I had the awful version for about 3 years and nothing else.

      Like

      1. That is bad times. You must have been delighted when it was reissued! Didn’t know any KISS fans in Scotland at that time so I had to buy them all new or 2nd-hand. Had such a hard time getting the solo albums where I lived. I had family and friends trained to look out for them at all times! The things you had to do before the Internet!

        Like

  4. For me I got all four solo albums for my birthday probably the same year, ’88. I saw them in a record store mailer, jumped up and down to finally see them out, and begged my mom & dad. They came through! I couldn’t decide what order to listen in, so I went alphabetical, so Paul’s came last, still my fave today.

    Like

  5. Mom and Dad totally came through! I think I went for about 3 years where all I got for birthdays and Christmas was KISS tapes (never as many as four at a time though)! I miss those days :) Paul > Ace > Gene > Peter for me. Not much in it between Paul and Ace though.

    Like

  6. On this album, Mike, let’s agree to agree. :-)
    This album is, with Hot In The Shade Kiss’ worst albums and the only two in their discography that really don’t cut it.
    Bass duties on Thrills In The Night and Under The Gun was held by Jean Beauvoir. He also played bass on Who Wants To Be Lonely and Uh! All Night from Asylum. And I have heard that Eric Carr played bass on Heaven’s On Fire but I don’t know if that’s accurate. He did, however, play bass on I Still Love Yopu from Creatures.
    Also, Mark St John’s departure wasn’t all about his disease. When he was let go, he was almost well and if they had waited another month, he would have been fit for fight. The real reason he was let go was that Paul and Gene discovered that Mark had a pretty bad cocaine addiction and that with Ace and Peter in mind, that’s the reason he was let go.

    Like

    1. Wow! I did not know that. That is a shame. I don’t think he was ever really right for Kiss, but still.

      When Mark passed I did a tribute video on youtube (since deleted) and I was pleased to get an email from Mark’s sister thanking me for the video. So that was cool. I appreciated that.

      Like

      1. Cool. Post it again if you still have it. Would be cool to see. I agree, he wasn’t right for Kiss at all, but he was an amazing player, that’s for sure.
        Peter Criss also revealed some less than uplifting things apart from his coke abuse, that wasn’t all that flattering for Mark. Like he brought cheap hookers to the rehearsals and that he haad German child pornography lying around his flat. God knows if that’s true or if Peter’s just making things up…

        Like

        1. I would wonder. I mean it could have been a fine art magazine or something, with pictures of cherubs. I’m sure Peter’s memory is hazy too.

          I’m guessing this was in Peter’s book. I didn’t finish Peter’s book to be honest. I found it a bit too much of the complain-complain-complaining about everybody else.

          Peter might have been shit on by everybody (who knows, I wasn’t there, and neither was Neue Regel LOL) but it wasn’t something I really enjoyed reading so I put it down.

          Like

        2. Haha. Neue Regel probably knows anyway…
          I actually liked Peter’s book. I agree on the complaining and the fact that he seems to believe that he was just as important as Paul and Gene, but those things aside, I think it was a pretty good reading. With a pinch of salt…

          Like

        3. You could always argue that all four original guys were necessary for the success of the original Kiss. And you could be right, nobody will ever know otherwise. It’s like chemistry…change one atom and you have a different molecule.

          We all know Peter wasn’t the most musically talented member of Kiss, but then again Kiss weren’t trying to be ELP.

          Like

  7. Actually I did not mind Animalize at all. The only problem I have with is Stanley’s vocals …way to high…better than some,of there other 80s output though..ie..Asylum..

    Like

    1. I agree. Paul’s vocals was too high for comfort. At times it got really annoying. Like on Let’s Put the X In Sex. But it doesn’t matter there as the song is crap and I never listen to it anyway…

      Like

        1. Well, that’s understandable. That and You Make Me Rock Hard shoyld’ve been kept in the vaults never to have seen the light of day.

          Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s