Over the years, KISS has done a better job of tearing down their own legacy than any critic ever could. Through their capitalist machinations, and the never-ending torrent of insults directed at everyone who is no longer in the band, KISS has become the traveling freak show that critics in the 70s accused them of being. It's difficult to even talk about KISS with a straight face anymore, since even the band refuses to admit their own importance in the grand scheme of things.
What all of that doesn't do, however, is diminish the power of the classic KISS records. There's a reason why the KISS Army was so massive, why KISS has sold millions upon millions of records, and why KISS is now in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. When they were good, KISS was a great band. While you can rightly criticize them for being a singles band, and not an album band, that doesn't take away from how great their string of singles are. A KISS greatest hits record is like a blueprint for how to write radio-friendly hard rock, and they don't get enough credit for that aspect of their music.
“Love Gun”, the band's sixth album, contains one of those singles, “Christine Sixteen”. Unfortunately for KISS, that song is one that somehow slipped past our sensibilities back in the day, but can't be viewed as anything but an ode for sex-offenders today. It's a great little nugget of pop, and maybe the best hook Gene Simmons ever wrote, but the song is too disgusting to play anymore. How KISS ever thought it was a good idea is beyond me.
“Love Gun” is also an interesting album for being the first to feature lead vocals from all four members of the band, a decision that could have been artistic, or could have been a way to increase Ace and Peter's profiles enough to sell more merchandise with their faces on them. Ace sings “Shock Me”, and does a respectable job, while Peter Criss contributes “Hooligan”, which isn't much of a song.
In the annals of KISS history, “Love Gun” is no “Destroyer”. It's an album that has its moments, but can't make up its mind whether it wants to be a heavy rock or pop record. The good songs, “Christine Sixteen”, “Love Gun”, and “I Stole Your Love”, are all top-notch KISS. But having songs about sexually desiring underage girls, and making casts of Gene Simmons' manhood, make the album hard to listen to so far removed from what was such a different time. “Love Gun” is an album that I feel can only be appreciated by those who were naïve at the time.
This reissue is remastered well, although loudly, and comes with a bonus disc of extras. Along with a handful of live tracks are some interesting demos. “Much Too Soon” and “I Know Who You Are” show KISS doing away with the pretense of being a heavy rock band, showing that they could have been a success even without the makeup and blood. They're both solid songs that don't fit in with the KISS image, but would have made the album a more interesting affair. Also included is a short demo of Paul Stanley illustrating how to play the title track, which is of note, because it reveals to truths about KISS as a band. They may not have ever been great players, but they knew what they were doing.
This package of “Love Gun” is something KISS fans will certainly enjoy. The remastering is solid, the sound is bright and lively, and the bonus disc has a few tracks that are certainly worth hearing. People who love “Love Gun” will find plenty to like about this reissue, while people who aren't KISS converts aren't going to be persuaded by this one. They need to stick with “Alive” or “Destroyer”.