Kiss, whose entire career has been a triumph of will over talent, is probably the only rock group both grandiose and control-obsessed enough to concoct its own tribute album. Despite numerous attempts to shock its audience into submission over the last 20 years, Kiss My Ass may be the first really audacious and truly original move Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have ever made. Just when attempts to recycle their stock riffs have seemed more tired than ever, they’ve recruited fresher, less cynical, and more popular young bucks to regurgitate them instead!
So, like the ghoulish horror-movie creatures the group has frequently resembled, Kiss would appear to be alive again on Kiss My Ass. The slowed-down country remakes of “Christine Sixteen” and “Rock and Roll All Night” — by the Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket, respectively — turn the songs’ adolescent fantasies into bittersweet nostalgia. Many of these covers (like the Lemonheads’ hysterical rendition of “Plaster Caster” and Garth Brooks’ perfectly straight reading of “Hard Luck Woman”) make the songs sound even more inane the umpteenth time around. But Lenny Kravitz’s glorious rendition of “Deuce,” highlighted by Stevie Wonder’s breathtaking harmonica, achieves what Kiss, no matter how hard it humps or thumps, never has and never will: It swings. B