This weekend I will see KISS in concert for the first (and almost certainly last) time. 2018 marks the beginning of their “End of the Road” tour, which will see the longtime rockers/sell-outs trekking across the world and gracing their fans with 40-year-old rock songs in what will supposedly be their last tour ever. To say that there’s any kind of wish fulfillment in seeing this band live would be a bit generous, considering I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with KISS. And I’m not sure there’s any better example of this love/hate relationship than 1977’s Love Gun, arguably the last “classic” KISS album.
If we’re talking about the “hate” first, well, you just have to look at the stupidity of the album being called Love Gun, a not-so-subtle metaphor for the male reproductive organ that has already been pointed out by Seann William Scott. There’s also the album cover, which has a bunch of make-up-clad women fawning over these dudes, while the band’s painted chest muscles seem more than a little over-exaggerated. That said, I would say the album doesn’t treat women as sex objects nearly as much as 1976’s Rock And Roll Over does, with songs like “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” and “See You In Your Dreams”.
Though there is the fact that Love Gun features “Christine Sixteen”, which is a ridiculously catchy song. That is, if you ignore all of the lyrics, which are pretty darn creepy. Though perhaps they’re forgivable if you realize KISS was just trying to write their own version of the teenage romance pop songs that were in vogue during the ’50s and ’60s. In fact, I noticed that “Christine Sixteen” recently disappeared from my streaming service of choice, which I’ve got to believe is a response to the current climate of things. Gene Simmons may be a scumbag, but he’s also a savvy businessman. Or at least, that’s what he’d like you to believe.
Still, this band is so stupid that it’s hard to take any of their grosser qualities that seriously. These were four thoroughly insufferable human beings, but as far as I know, the only harm they ever caused was on Ace Frehley’s liver. Also, it’s hard to hold a grudge against a band whose only true message was to rock and roll all night and party every day. I’m not sure there’s a song on Love Gun that sums up that party-rock ethos better than “Tomorrow And Tonight”. It’s perhaps my favorite KISS song, and one that contains the sublimely stupid chorus “Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight. / We can rock all day. We can roll all night. / Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight. / Uh-huh. Oh yeah. Alright!”
I think most of all, I like Love Gun the best out of all the KISS albums because it sees the band at its heaviest, but also its most pop-worthy. The album’s title track takes a big swipe at reaching Zeppelin-levels of stomp, and coming pretty darn close. Meanwhile, there’s the Ace Frehley-led “Shock Me”, which hints at Frehley’s 1978 solo album (also known as the best and heaviest of the KISS solo albums). While on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a surprisingly good take on the Crystals’ girl group pop standard “Then He Kissed Me”.
Much of the album’s potent blend of irresistable pop and riff-heavy rock can be owed to producer Eddie Kramer, who oversaw KISS’s break-out (mostly) live album Alive!. Here he makes the band sound larger than life, and even makes Ace Frehley sound like a half-way decent singer. Of course, reading about the band, you get the sense that they weren’t nearly as tightly knit on a personal level as they sound as musicians on Love Gun. This would be the last album to feature all four of the original members on all the tracks, and considering the next album was the disco-pandering Dynasty, was probably the last time KISS sounded comfortable being themselves, and not like they were desperately trying to stay relevant. But hey, at least they’ll always have the mountains of merchandise that has been manufactured in the decades since their prime.