KISS – Unmasked

Scott, our venerable HMO, sent me this album. With KISS, I know the hits. We all do. They’re fairly inescapable. I had to Wiki this record to find out more about what KISS was up to in 1980, and now I know as much as you do (or could) about it. Fun! 

In a way, this is a neat way to review a record by a band where the most popular songs are the only ones known (none of them appear here). It’s uncharted territory for me. Bring it on!

Is That You? is a groovy rocker that flirst with cheesy. Could be heavier-sounding, with that riff, if they’d let it. The undoing of many a great tune, really… Shandi is a period-perfect ballad. It was 1980, so extrapolate from there amongst yourselves… It’s be easy to rip on it now, but at the time I’m sure it was the bomb. It’s a smartly-written song, but in 2014 it sounds like, well, elevator music.

Talk To Me is weak, lyrically. It’s like they spent an evening with a thesaurus, writing sentences ending in rhymes of “-tion.” It’s not a bad song, as these things go, though. Good guitar solo. And am I wrong for thinking I hear Beach Boys in this one? Or was it just the bit about the vibraTIONS he was getting… Naked City is a better, slinky rock intro that becomes almost a rip-off of the Police’s Roxanne. The bass is very prominent. When the song hits the chorus it all gets a bit better. Think what would happen if you mixed Naked Eyes and the Police, but had KISS singing. Weird. The obligatory guitar solo is short but sweet.

What Makes The World Go ‘Round is like a Bon Jovi song, all the clichés (haha) but it’s another pop song that works in the context of when it was wrought. The chorus rocks the most, here… Tomorrow made me wonder if Rik Okasek produced it, so much did it sound like a Cars song. It’s a fun pop tune all the same, and whatever else I could say about the sound now, looking back, it is still true that  it’s another well-constructed tune.

Two Sides Of The Coin is bluesy, almost a Keef homage in the (different singer)’s vocals. At least, I heard it a bit in the verses. Decent track… She’s So European is just a dumb song title. But it’s another tune that would benefit greatly from heavier production (and a loss of the synths, full-stop). This song could really rock, if they let it.

Easy As It Seems is yet another pop song, pure and simple. Ah, the 80s… Torpedo Girl even has the “battle stations!” intro. It’s a very jazzy tune with a great drum beat. I liked it, for all that the lyrics are rather painful… And finally, it’s You’re All That I Want. This is a solid rocker. I can see this one being a lot of fun in concert. It’d be easy to pump your fist in the air along with this one.

In sum, I’m not really one to consider myself any sort of expert on KISS. This takes some restraint to admit, because they’ve done so much and been around so long it’s really easy to have a half-informed opinion about them, but I won’t do them that disservice. I definitely liked parts of this album. The rest was very of-its-time and it is what it is.

My thanks to our HMO for including this in the stack of awesomeness he sent my way. I was really glad to hear it!


NB: If you want a more insightful take on this record, re-acquaint yourself with Mike’s take on it from back when he reviewed all the KISS albums in order (yes he’s insane like that). Read it RIGHT HERE!


17 thoughts on “KISS – Unmasked

          1. deKE says:

            I just went thru your site and not thru reader and i see i blathered on in the comments like the Town Idiot! hahah..we are good…wierd…as reader only showed 2 comments and when i went to the actual Kma site there was 15 comments ..5 of which were mine..hahah


            1. keepsmealive says:

              Deke, you never blather like an idiot! Not sure what was up with the Reader… ostensibly, it ought to work the same as going directly to the site by url… Maybe it just needed refreshing, or something. Anyway, glad it all worked out!


  1. Heavy Metal Overload says:

    How’d I miss this one? I think you’ve pretty much nailed this, it’s a hard album to talk about. It gets by as a power-pop record on the strength of the tunes but the production is pretty toothless. It’s one of those albums that I’m fond of but wouldn’t rave about!


    1. keepsmealive says:

      Thanks! Yeah, in retrospect I may have been the perfect person to write about a hard album to discuss, as you say. I’m not as deep into the KISS thing as you guys. Of course, if and when I get around to getting more of their records (I definitely want Revenge – fond high school memories), I’ll probably be right in there with you. I guess it just is of its time, and so be it. One way they could reclaim the power of those songs, these days, would be to dust them off and play them live and really rock the hell out of them. It’d be like reclaiming their own work! ha.


  2. Deke says:

    Great review …actually I remember at the time being a huge Kiss fan and when this was released, as I had seen the Dynasty tour a yr before Unmasked came out and I remember reading I think in Circus magazine Kiss was calling there new release Unmasked and of course I was like Holy Shit I’m gonna see what they look like and of course it was released and when I bought it the first thing I did was flip to,the back cover to see if they were actually Unmasked but of course it was a gimmick and it was due To I think they knew they were starting to decline so why not create a buzz…..
    It kinda flatlined for them,there was no buzz for this except for me and 3 other guys that I was hanging with in Tbay !
    Your right the sound is weak some of the songs are dated but it was basically Ace keeping the Kiss ship afloat……esp after his strong Ace Kiss solo album….


    1. keepsmealive says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I was worried about writing about KISS, honestly. I don’t know as much as many, many people do. So all I could do was go with my gut. I can see how promising to be Unmasked was a selling point. Maybe they meant instead that they would be baring a part of themselves in these new songs, “unmasking” a sensitive side, or something, rather than actually taking off their make-up?


  3. mikeladano says:

    Well dude that different singer was Ace Frehley!

    I think you pretty much nailed it would the comment, sounds like it could be heavier. That’s what Kiss would say too, that the demos for these songs were heavier.


    1. keepsmealive says:

      Way to go, Ace. I liked that one.

      It was fine for its time, but I can hear a heavier album screaming to get out from underneath. Are the demos available? Tracks or it didn’t happen! 😉


      1. mikeladano says:

        There’s one or two on the Kiss box set. Besides that I don’t know, I haven’t run across too many demos from this period. But right after this they made a serious attempt to heavy up, they were obviously straining at the leash!


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