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 – KIX (1981)
The self-titled debut album from Kix certainly does illustrate the notion that greatness can come from humble beginnings.
Leading up to this album, the band gigged constantly and became one of the best live acts in the state of Maryland. The lineup of Steve Whiteman (vocals), Ronnie Younkins (guitar), Brian Forsythe (guitar), Donnie Purnell (bass) and Jimmy Chalfant (drums) had to be one of the most in sync lineups you could possibly imagine by the time they got around to recording this album.
Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t necessarily translate into that great of an album. I’ve never heard the Kix album until listening to it for this article. Hell, when it was released I was still two or three years away from even being a rock/metal fan. But if I’d heard it back then, I’m pretty sure I would not have liked it.
The first side of the album struck me as just being mostly abysmal. This strikes me funny as the songs “Atomic Bomb”, “Love At First Sight” and “The Itch” were considered live favorites in the band’s concerts at the time. I suppose “Love At First Sight” would’ve been a better song for me if the vocals from Whiteman during the chorus hadn’t been rather annoyingly too high pitched. As for the other two songs, they may have had the requisite uptempo pacing but they both just felt flat. Meanwhile, “Heartache” sounded like a pure pop song (in the most negative connotation) that added some rock guitar in a bid to sound more macho. To put in modern day terms, imagine Justin Bieber trying to gain even a shred of musical credibility, and you have this song.
All is not lost on Side One though as I did find the song “Poison” rather enjoyable.
By the time the first side of the album finished playing, I was kind of dreading finishing listening to this album. I just really didn’t like most of what I was hearing. Article be damned, I didn’t want to punish my ear drums for no good reason. But I flipped the cassette over and soldiered on.
This act of musical “bravery” on my part paid off handsomely though as Side Two was a far better representation of what Kix can do when they are on the mark. The second half of the album opens up with the best song on the release, “Kix Are For Kids”. I know that the song title incorporating the two breakfast cereals (Kix and Trix) might lend a certain corniness to the song, but this is one kick ass rocker! The band follows that up with another great rocker in “Contrary Mary”. “The Kid” is a slightly less potent sounding rocker, but still pretty decent. The album closes with “Yeah Yeah Yeah”. It’s another song that was a favorite in the band’s live set at the time. It starts out great but the spoken word section in the middle of the song robs the track of a lot of its energy. This is an opinion I’m sure is not shared by all, but for me it closes things out on a sour note.
As the saying goes, you have to start somewhere. And while I’m not overly enamored with this first Kix album, it is an interesting experience to go through. I can’t say I enjoyed most of the music, but when the band really nabbed my interest on certain songs, I could see the origins for their later releases that I’ve come to love.
NOTE OF INTEREST: The album was produced by Tom Allom, who is perhaps best known for being the producer of 11 albums by Judas Priest.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Kix will perform in The Vault at Greasy Luck in New Bedford, MA, on April 6, 2019. Purchase tickets HERE.