Picks and Pans Review: Hot in the Shade

updated 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST


Kiss's reliance on greasepaint and theatrics worked astonishingly well for a bewildering length of time. But as the group has grown longer in the tooth and even less committed to their trashy brand of teen titillation—and particularly since they dropped their mask makeup in 1981—well, it has left the band in an impossible position: trying to be musicians instead of vulgar showmen.

However dreary their output, until now it has never sounded quite as tired and halfhearted as it does on Hot in the Shade. This is truly bad songwriting. It has produced a raft of monotonous melodies that are senselessly brutalized by the thrash and volume of hard rock. Either the guys are brain dead or, more likely, they wrote this insipid selection of songs in the limo on their way to the recording studio. Tunes such as "Silver Spoon," "Cadillac Dreams" and "Read My Body" are that tossed-off and vacuous. Even on "Street Giveth—Street Taketh Away," part of which they borrowed shamelessly from David Bowie's "Suffragette City," they don't sound good.

The only energy evident on Hot in the Shade is found in the guitar solos of Bruce Kulick. But even these are speedy without being exciting. Oh, sure, Kiss's groin is probably still in it, but not its heart. (Mercury/PolyGram)

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