Part 26 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!
KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
October, 1988. Articles had been spinning through the rock magazines for months that this was the end: Kiss was on the verge of breaking up. Gene Simmons was still focused on his label and management company, the last album (Crazy Nights) was a disappointment, and the word on the street was that Kiss were no longer cool.
So, when Gene Simmons was to appear as co-host of the Pepsi Power Hour that day in October, they said it was for a special announcement. I fully expected it to be an announcement of the farewell tour.
It was not. It was to promote his new label, $immons Records, and his signing, the excellent House Of Lords. And, to announce the forthcoming release of Smashes, Thrashes & Hits: the new Kiss greatest hits CD with two new songs. And a remake of “Beth”. With Eric Carr singing.
I received the album for Christmas that year. My feelings were quite mixed.
Both new songs were written, sung and produced by Paul Stanley, another indication that Gene was still off in la-la land. “Let’s Put The X In Sex” is a pretty lame, pretty pop, pretty un-Kiss tune, with a somewhat redeeming horn section. I was horrified that, in the music video, Paul wasn’t even holding a guitar anymore. He was just dancing. Dancing! At least in the videos from Crazy Nights, he was holding a guitar while dancing. Somehow I saw this as a symptom of what was wrong with Kiss in the late 80’s. This was not the same band anymore.
The second new song, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” (a double entendre that I missed completely), is a slightly more uptempo song which almost qualifies as a rocker. It has an insanely catchy pre-chorus. Which is something I’d actually like to draw your attention to. See below, please:
Try to ignore the dancing, Paul hugging a very bouffant Gene, just skip to the 1:50 mark. Watch Gene’s lips.
Paul sings, “You make me sweat, you turn me ’round,” but Gene can be clearly seen mouthing, “you turn me up.” He doesn’t even know the words to the song, and that made it into the video. He was clearly asleep at the wheel!
The rest of the album was filled with hits, none with Ace nor Peter singing. Hence, “Beth”. It’s always been said that Kiss have tried to erase Ace and Peter from their history and here’s a great example. In addition, Eric’s voice is simply too sweet, it needs rasp to do this song. It’s unfortunate that this was Eric’s first lead vocal.
You should know that many of the hits were remixed — virtually everything from the original lineup. Some of the remixes are quite good (I love this version of “Love Gun” with the extended guitar bit), some are not. “I Love It Loud” lacks the oomph of the drums, and the false ending.
Of note: Not one song from Crazy Nights made the cut (except in the U.K., where “Reason To Live” was added). I’ve always felt this was a subliminal message as to the quality of that album too.
Smashes, Thrashes & Hits represents the absolute lowest point of this era of Kiss. The dancing, the pop, the terrible videos, I was fed up. Fortunately, Gene got his brain back and the band began to steer the ship back in the right direction. In my opinion the first real step began with Paul Stanley’s solo tour (with Bob Kulick and Eric Singer), where he reconnected with the fans and the music.
Better things were to come, but not yet.