RE-REVIEW: KISS – Animalize

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 25

 – Animalize (1984 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

Animalize:  a huge hit not proportional to the quality of the songs inside.  It went platinum on the strength of lead single “Heaven’s On Fire”, but going deeper into the record, Kiss did not have the goods this time.

New guitarist Mark St. John (formerly Mark Norton) replaced the fired Vinnie Vincent, and in doing so, continued Kiss’ quest for shreddery dominance.  In the 80s you had to have an Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen to get noticed, or so it seemed, and that was what Kiss went for.  In the meantime, Gene Simmons was off in Hollywood leaving Paul Stanley to do handle Kiss, something Paul eventually came to resent.

Paul Stanley re-teamed with his songwriting buddy Desmond Child.  Their last collaboration was 1979’s disco hit “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” from Dynasty.  The partnership struck gold a second time with “Heaven’s On Fire”, a simple song perfectly suited for the Kiss of the 80s and beyond.  Paul Stanley’s “Woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-OOOOO-ooo” intro is legendary and truthfully a song like “Heaven’s On Fire” isn’t too far removed from classic Kiss.  Paul’s sassy delivery is enviable.

Desmond Child also co-wrote the opening number “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”.  As the 80s began, Kiss seemed determined to write fast songs for their albums.  Very fast songs.  “I’ve Had Enough” is one of those, and it’s a good one too, though it was rarely played in concert.  You’d never guess Desmond was involved without reading the credits, but you’d also not imagine it was Kiss if it wasn’t Paul singing.

Another fine Paul song called “Get All You Can Take” is a co-write with Mitch Weissman whose name has repeatedly popped up on Kiss credits over the years.  This slow paced sleazy rocker has one of the few Kiss f-bombs in the chorus:  “What fucking difference does it make?”   Mark St. John’s solo is a blazing showcase of different tricks and techniques, but it suits the song rather awkwardly like an ill fitting tux.  Such was the problem with a jazz-influenced shredder in Kiss.

Another fast number is “Under the Gun” written by Paul, Desmond and drummer Eric Carr.  This one was played frequently on the Animalize tour though there are better songs.  Fluttery guitars sound like laser beams zipping back and forth.  Carr kicks ass, but it’s not a great track.  Paul gets in a cute double entendre though:  “There’s no speed limit where I’m coming from…let’s hit the highway doing 69!”

The final Paul song is probably the best one, although he has since criticized it as not good enough.  “Thrills in the Night”, co-written with Jean Beauvoir, deserves praise.  Sometimes the artist is their own worst critic, but “Thrills in the Night” is awesome, dramatic Kiss rock.  The chorus goes on for weeks and the soloing fits.

If Animalize was a Paul Stanley solo EP, there would be enough good songs to give it a passing grade.  However…we have the Gene Simmons songs.

Animalize shall forever be cursed as the album with the lyric, “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”  Yes, the man who once wrote a song with Bob Dylan also wrote a ditty called “Burn Bitch Burn”.  The riff is awesome.  It has its moments.  It’s also undeniably one of Gene’s worst lyrics, and that is saying something.  The song also sounds unfinished, as if he said, “OK good enough, onto the next song.”  Fortunately Mark St. John’s solo playing is awesome, though not especially accessible.  And that’s Gene’s best song on the album.

Gene’s other songs are “Lonely is the Hunter”, “While the City Sleeps” and “Murder in High Heels”.  Of these, “Lonely is the Hunter” is by far the best.  A slow sleazy groove is more up Kiss’ alley than these fast speed rockers.  All three of these songs have one quality in common with “Burn Bitch Burn”, and that is that they sound like rough ideas gone unfinished.  Animalize was produced by Paul (with a co-producer credit for Gene).  A Kiss producer like Bob Ezrin likely would have told Gene to go back and come up with better material.  The most interesting thing about “Lonely is the Hunter” and “Murder in High Heels” is the solo work.  It’s stellar.  It’s not overdone.  It’s melodic and memorable.  And it’s…familiar.  Future Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick stepped in to play ghost guitar on these songs.

The trend of Kiss using uncredited outside musicians was growing.  Allan Schwartzberg (who also played on The Elder) did drum overdubs.  Jean Beauvoir played bass on “Under the Gun”.  Gene played the rhythm guitars on his own songs.  That’s why the credits on Kiss albums always simply state:  KISS – and the names of the members.

Gene cut his hair short for a movie called Runaway.  He starred as the villain (of course) Dr. Luther, opposite Tom Selleck.  Kirstie Alley was in it, and it was written and directed by Michael Crichton.  Considering the year and the names involved, this was a fairly high profile role.  Gene went for it, and has since admitted his brain wasn’t in Kiss at the time.  The wig he wore on stage with the band made him look silly, and new fans considered Paul the singer and Gene a secondary guy.  Gene’s songs weren’t singles anymore.  They weren’t being played live.  “Burn Bitch Burn” was only ever played once!  These were all clues as to what was going on behind the scenes.  Paul was sailing the ship now.  He had no choice.  Animalize suffers for it.  Gene is to blame for his own downfall during the period and has since gracefully accepted that.

The Animalize tour was the biggest Kiss had done since the glory years, but troubles began early.  Mark St. John couldn’t play.  He was diagnosed with an arthritic condition called Reiter’s Syndrome.  His hands swelled up and he simply could not do the gig.  Mark passed away in 2007, but suggested that the arthritis may have been triggered by stress.  The aforementioned Bruce Kulick stepped in to take his place, and did so with professionalism and respect.  He got along with everyone. He was willing to learn.  He was a great fit.  The first great fit in many years.

The Animalize period put Kiss on MTV and on back the radio again, but its success was vastly disproportional to its quality.

Today’s rating:

2/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

2/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  There really isn’t much to say here. “Heaven’s on Fire” is a good song that I still enjoy hearing. Everything else is OK at best and non-essential. “Burn Bitch Burn” might have some of the worst lyrics of all time.

Favorite Tracks:  “Heaven’s on Fire”

Forgettable Tracks: take your pick


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/31

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44 comments

  1. I have to admit, for me in 1984, KISS took the back burner to some of the other great metal albums that were around at the time. While I don’t dislike Animalyze, it wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of the other stuff coming out at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This album I always liked. Stanley though sings at times real high pitch like but I guess those were the lazy hazy daze of 1984!
    Thrills is a great track esp that dive bombing solo that for some crazy reason is still stuck in my noggin decades later…RIP St John…
    I know Simmons gets slammed on this on but man Lonely Is The Hunter is a great tune. Just love the doziness and slop of it…Kulick’s solo on it is good as well…
    MEAT….ha short and simple review dude!
    But yeah 3 decades later Lick It Up is better but some days when I’m in that mood some Animalize isn’t a bad thing…
    By the way the live show that HMO sent me from this tour is fantastic….

    Liked by 3 people

  3. When this album came out, I loved it. But over the years, my love has definitely faded for this one. The songs don’t hold up. I still throw it every now and again, but it isn’t the same. I agree on the lyrics, they are pretty darn cheesy, even for Gene.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If I’d read this review thirty years ago I’d probably have agreed with you. However, this last year I’ve been rediscovering the 80’s Kiss output starting with Creatures. Animalize has really taken me by surprise. I find it strangely soothing. It kicks ass in places and sounds awesome cranked. While The City Sleeps is my favourite. I play it more than Powerslave and Defenders.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think I wanted to like this more than I did since it was Kiss. But as 80smetalman says, there was so much great metal. Not only metal, but music in general was awesome in 1984. Just look to the album of the same name as just one of thousands of examples. New record day was awesome every week throughout 1984.

    RIP Mark St. John. I take it his stress comment was a backhanded stab at Gene and Paul. Basically that those guys killled him ultimately.

    I am assuming Paul went to a David Lee Roth garage sale before the shooting of Thrills In The Night. Paul said “Hmmm. 50 cents for these pants. I’ll give you a quarter. Plus you have to show me how to do those kicks you do in Jump.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL Bop those are the very pants I wanted and the jumps I tried my best to imitate in this story:

      https://mikeladano.com/2017/04/29/562-adventure/

      But you’re still right. They were chasing trends inn the 80s. And who was theee biggest band in 1984? Van Halen. So you’re for sure right.

      I never got the impression that Mark was slamming Paul and Gene with that comment. There’s more to it. He was basically thrown out there and wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the gig. I think that was more the pressure he was referring to. I believe Paul and Gere were supportive of Mark and they did try and wait for him to get well.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ghetto blaster. $150
          8 D batteries. $10
          Collection of Monster Truck cd’s. $50

          The look on Uncle Meat’s face when Monster Truck is played at Sausagefest.
          Priceless.

          Like

  6. Kiss worst album ever. I agree with you on almost everything here. Except for Lonely Is The Hunter. Maybe Kiss worst song ever. It’s so awful it almost makes Boomerang listenable.

    Gene didn’t play any bass on this album at all, right? Beauvoir played, Carr played, Stanley played – Gene sent his demos and went to Hollywood.

    And St John? He had the chops and the skills and were guitar hero fast – but he wasn’t melodic melodic enough and his solos were forgettable. He also had a big coke addiction which is probably more to blame than that Reiters Syndrome BS they went official with. His brain hemorrhage was caused by his heavy crystal meth use. Sad sad sad.

    Like

    1. The reports I read state Mark St John was beaten severely in jail by 20 fellow inmates months before his death. He was near death and was bed-ridden for weeks. He was afraid to seek medical care or yell for help during the beating. This is what friends and family felt eventually killed him.

      Like

      1. That probably helped as well. But he had a really bad meth addiction, the reason for his time in jail if I’m not misinformed, and the beating in jail was also drug related. Meth is known for causing brain hemorrhages so maybe it was a combination of the two.
        Whatever the reason for his passing, it’s very sad. If it wasn’t for the drugs he just might have had a bright future in music with or without Kiss. God knows the guy had talent.

        Like

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