By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
KIX – HOT WIRE (1991)
Following up on the platinum success of 1988’s Blow My Fuse, the Kix album Hot Wire ended up being a commercial failure when it sold only 1/5 of what the previous album had sold. So you must be thinking that the album was garbage right?
It’s funny, really didn’t pay that much attention to Kix until I saw that killer video for the song “Cold Blood” and fell in love with the song and the super fine model in said video. I did get out to see them open for Whitesnake in 1990 based on their reputation as a sterling live act. But like a lot of people, I also kind of abandoned the band after the Blow My Fuse album too. I have no explanation or defense for this, it is simply a statement of fact.
Truthfully, other than the outstanding single “Girl Money”, I have never heard any of the songs on this album until I listened to it for this article. More’s the pity because it is chock full of fantastic rock and roll. The Maryland rockers mesh bluesy rock and roll with a bit of an AC/DC bent and turn out some great music.
The songs on the album were written or co-written by bassist Donnie Purnell with no other band members receiving writing credits. Instead, producer Taylor Rhodes co-wrote half the songs. Other outside collaborators were used as well.
But the lack of input from the majority of the band didn’t affect the overall performance from the band. The first side of the album opened with the title track which got the blood flowing and led into “Girl Money”, with an eminently catchy chorus. I was disappointed with the power ballad “Tear Down The Walls” which felt rote. I would’ve liked “Luv-A-Holic”, a bruising rocker, more if the vocals hadn’t been buried a bit too deep in the mix. But the band rallied to close out the side with an admittedly stupidly titled “Bump The La La”, which despite its title was a surprisingly peppy rocker with another catch chorus.
Side Two of the album is where the band really was firing on all cylinders. There’s not a bad song to be found. For the most part, it is straightforward rockers on tracks like “Rock & Roll Overdose”, “Cold Chills” and “Pants On Fire (Liar, Liar)”. There’s a real bluesy intro to “Hee Bee Jee Bee Crush” before that song also explodes into an uptempo rocker. Of course, the lyrics to that song sound a bit fetishistic to me, but I could be reading entirely too much into them. However, the best of the bunch is the song “The Same Jane”. It’s another blistering run through from Kix but the lyrics about a woman who has changed from a party girl to a seemingly “responsible” adult are killer and the chorus envelops the listener and makes you want to get up and rock out.
For the most part, Kix really had just one serving of commercial musical success with the Blow My Fuse album. But the lack of sustained record sales doesn’t tell the whole story because they really knew how to put together some great songs. The band is definitely underrated in rock history and for my non-girl money, I’d wager to say that Hot Wire was just as good a release as the one that made them famous.
NOTES OF INTEREST: John Palumbo of prog rockers Crack The Sky is credited with co-writing two tracks on Hot Wire, “Pants on Fire (Liar, Liar)” and “Hee Bee Jee Bee Crush”.
Hot Wire producer Taylor Rhodes has worked with Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick, Journey, Tora Tora, Celine Dion and others throughout his career.
After the release of the 1995 album $how Bu$ine$$, the band essentially went their separate ways until they reunited in 2003 without Donnie Purnell. But it wasn’t until 2014 when they released a new studio album, the aptly titled Rock Your Face Off, which did exactly that.