The Cassette Chronicles – Kiss’ ‘Animalize’

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.

KISS – ANIMALIZE (1984)

It may come as a bit of a surprise but I never really owned many Kiss albums growing up. As a kid, it wasn’t like I was allowed to listen to the band’s output in the 70’s. But even when I started making my own musical choices, I really only owned the Crazy Nights album.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t hear some the songs but the band really wasn’t a priority to start getting their albums. I’ve got a friend down in Texas that would probably consider that last sentence a rather large piece of blasphemy but there it is. 

Recently though, I’ve started picking up some of the cheap remastered editions of a few albums. I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve heard but the most recent CD I picked up was the Rock And Roll Over album. That one has the classic track “Calling Dr. Love”. Unfortunately, it is really the only song that stood out to me. I was quite disappointed in the album.

So when I picked up this cassette edition of Animalize, I had hopes that it would get the sour taste of Rock And Roll Over out of my mouth. I wouldn’t say this was a total success, but the album certainly had far more high points than the other album.

The first side opens strongly with “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)”, a fast paced rocker that certainly does the job of capturing the attention of listeners. That leads into the big hit track from the album “Heaven’s On Fire”. This is a huge song for me. I love it. It remains one of my all-time favorite Kiss songs. It did pretty well on the charts as a single but that aside, it is just the best example of combining a standout rock soundtrack and a big commercial hook and chorus.

The rest of side one was a bit more of a slog for me though. Musically speaking, “Burn Bitch Burn” is pretty interesting but lyrically it was just a demonstration of the band’s inability to grasp the notion of subtlety. The last two songs were simply not what I would consider all that great.

Side two opens with a blazingly aggressive “Under The Gun”. I don’t recall having ever heard the  song before but now that I have, I really love it. Seriously, this one really got me all fired up. “Thrills In The Night” was another uptempo track and I liked this one as well. I thought the chorus was a bit better than the main lyrical passages but still, it was a fun listen. 

Of course, things went downhill for me on “While The City Sleeps” which is just flat in all respects. The album closed out with “Murder In High Heels” which was the second song on the album to fall under the banner of “musically interesting” but lacked the cohesive whole because of the lyrics.

At the time of this album’s recording, Gene Simmons was off chasing acting dreams. This left Paul Stanley in the lead position for the album’s direction. Whether this was for the good or the bad, you can decide for yourself. I know there are a lot of detractors for this particular time in the band’s career as they moved more towards the prevailing trend of glam metal that was growing in the mid 80’s but I’ve always liked the era so that might be a pretty good explanation for why I enjoyed the album’s better songs. Sure you can wish all the songs were uniformly great but you can’t have everything, right?

Still, Animalize was a decent album and considering it was certified platinum in the US, a lot of people seemed to enjoy what Kiss offered as heaven burned.

NOTES OF INTEREST: Mark St. John was the lead guitarist on Animalize. It is his only recorded music with the band as he left the band due to health issues in November 1984.

Bruce Kulick, who would replace St. John as the band’s lead guitarist, actually played lead on two of the songs on Animalize, “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”.

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