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Gene Simmons Asshole

By Edward "Ace" Annese, RealityCheck TV
Thursday, July 8, 2004 @ 12:57 AM

(Simmons/ Sanctuary)

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Gene Simmons once again manages to confound the critics and foil the pundits with his latest solo effort, the long-awaited follow up to his 1978 Gene Simmons/KISS platter. While there are some similarities, there are also some differences -- not to mention some serious surprises! Overall, the new set brings the listener mixed but generally positive results.

Like his aforementioned previous solo disc, Gene varies the pace with hard rockin' tunes segueing into some really touching balladry. He also plays some guitar, though only on one song. He brings in a variety of guest players like last time, and shows off his considerable vocal chops, both lead and background. Several tracks even have him doing ALL the harmonies, no mean feat.

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In contrast to his last record, he plays bass on some of the songs, while not performing any instruments on some songs at all. He also elected to cover tunes by outside writers, some which were apparently written for him, others, like the single "Firestarter," are straight covers. (In fact, the latter seems wasted, since it is pretty much the same as the original -- a no-no. Why bother, unless one's own stamp can be put on it?) Several of the Gene-penned songs are co-written by some seemingly unlikely collaborators like Bob Dylan (the amazing "Waiting for the Morning Light"!) and Frank Zappa (the latter apparently was in the Zappa Archives, and Gene was granted permission to add to it.)

Guest-wise, there's no mondo stars like Cher or Donna Summer, or even Helen Reddy. He does get the Zappa clan to play on Frank's co-authored "Black Tongue," complete with guitar wizardry from Dweezil, and Frank himself noodles from the grave. Definitely another highlight on the record! Gene also gets his own family involved, with his lady-love Shannon Tweed and kids Nick and Sophie dropping background vox in on various tracks. Long-time collaborators Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer play on the opening track, "Sweet Dirty Love," which kicks things off nicely, and "Weapons of Mass Destruction," a song that has strong verses, but the chorus is lacking. (Lyrically, the line "I bring you / the Weapons of Mass Destruction / e pluribus unum / illusion / delusion ..." seems strangely apropos, granted). Other notables include Jane's Addiction axeman Dave Navarro on "Firestarter," which is too bad. Gene also works in his 'discovery', a guy named Bag, as multi-instrumentalist/ co-writer on several cuts. (Bag will have his own disc out on Gene's label shortly, which should be interesting.)

There's two non-Gene authored songs that stand out, one of which is the title track, "Asshole." The lyrics are hysterical, and Gene obviously sings them with great relish. By contrast, "Beautiful" is both sweet and very much like its title. In several of his own songs, Gene offers some telling lyrical glimpses of himself as on "Whatever Turns You On": "Well, who else would I be? / If I lost this dark side of me? / You know damn well you'll never change me." Or how about this one from "If I Had a Gun": "If I had a gun / I'd have me some fun / I'd shoot everyone / who pisses me off today / so don't piss me off today". Guess we shouldn't aggravate The Demon...

Then there's the larger issue of why Gene, who is regarded as a 'biznezz-savvy' media whore, decided to put out a record that has some really great songs on it, with a title that he has to blank out to be in the stores, and can't be said on most radio stations or TV shows. Combine that with a lackadaisical cover as the single (not to mention a video that is more like a rap clip, than the dark industrial rock track it should be), and the fact he isn't even touring behind the record (right now he's out with the Ace and Peter-less KISS), and it's almost like he is sabotaging what is overall a pretty damn good record.

Man of a Thousand Faces indeed...

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