photo & text by nacrowe
KISS is a bit of a joke.
or at least that is what i grew up hearing and reading from people around me and national music publications. they are unapologetically from the "more is more" school of entertainment and are universally derided for supposedly being all style and no substance. in fact they are regarded by many tastemakers as the epitome of INAUTHENTICITY.
which is all pretty much missing the point because in essence all musicians are in the KISS business of entertaining audiences, whether they be BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, NEIL YOUNG, PATTI SMITH, DAVID BOWIE or BOB DYLAN. they all carry an image that is sold to the masses, some more consciously than others. when i consider the actual legacy of KISS, i think of what bands they influenced, which conveniently enough include members of DINOSAUR JR, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, TOOL, ANTHRAX, FAITH NO MORE (and even STEVIE WONDER) found on the KISS MY ASS: CLASSIC KISS REGROOVED (MERCURY, 1994) tribute compilation. other vocal KISS proponents not featured on this MERCURY RECORDS-initiated compilation famously include the likes of THE MELVINS, PANTERA, THE REPLACEMENTS, ALICE IN CHAINS, HUSKER DU, SOUNDGARDEN, PEARL JAM and THE MINUTEMEN.
my sense is that for kids in the 1970s, KISS represented an escapist fantasy where a fan could transcend their daily existence. this feels very much like the very credo of ROCK N ROLL itself. and it goes beyond that since the band was an economic entity unto itself, foreshadowing the DIY HARDCORE / INDIE ROCK ethic that followed in the 1980s. economic independence goes hand in hand with freedom of speech. it should come as no surprise then that these bands are are consciously challenging the political, economic, cultural and gender normative culture of what a ROCK N ROLL is and can be.
critical respect is nice, but clearing the way for such a disparate set of quality bands is a legacy i'd argue better worth having. the KISS MY ASS tribute compilation is evidence of that.