As mentioned in a previous post, I'm fascinated by those albums where a successful band loses the plot. The dogs of the back catalogue. Those Heavy Metal Titus Andronicuses that muck up the discography of your favourite bands and single-handedely shrink the size of the sporting arenas they play during their tours. And as wrong passes go, it's pretty damn difficult to beat Music From The Elder by Kiss.
We've done a lot of "Fuck Me Suck Me" songs and we thought we'd like to go a slightly different route - Paul Stanley, 1982Kiss were in trouble in 1981. Sales had been falling dramatically over the last couple of years. For some reason, fans didn't really take to them doing things like releasing 4 solo albums on the same day. Or making low-budget sci-fi movies. Or going disco. Something had to be be done. So when you're a band who'd made their name with catchy pop-rock anthems, the answer was obvious: make a concept album about a boy selected by an ancient order of elders to be trained to combat the forces of evil.
The album kicks off promisingly. The Oath has a strong riff and rattles along impressively, until we get to the lyrics at which point Kiss fans hearing this for the first time must have been wondering why Paul Stanley was singing about forged tempered-steel blades and ancient doors lost in the midst instead of banging groupies. The the fun begins. I have this theory that the second track on any album will give you a measure as to what's in store and whether it's going to be a classic or a clunker. The second track here is Fanfare, which gives you a couple of minutes of baroque noodling on some trumpets. On a Kiss album. In reality, Fanfare is doing exactly what a fanfare should do - it's making an announcement. And that announcement is: Here comes trouble. Because the next 30 minutes or so are hilariously awful, sounding like a cross between This is Spinal Tap and those mid seventies Alice Cooper albums that people remember fondly but never listen to anymore. The final track I, is a decent piece of glam metal but it comes too little, too late.
Still, the low sales and poor reception to Music From The Elder had one positive outcome: it scared the life out of Kiss and spurred them into making the straightforward Creatures of the Night, their last really good album. After that it was all downhill: they took off the make-up and made duller and duller records, till they ended up looking (and sounding) like Cinderella's elder brothers.
A (surprisingly good) live version of The Oath from US TV around the time of the album's release is below.