The world has been a strange place since the original gangsta, first lineup of KISS – yeah, KISS with makeup – fell apart around 1980. Gene and Paul manned the helm of the monolithic corporate entity that is KISS without makeup – and then the original four got back together with makeup for a profitable run at the end of the 20th century – and now KISS, Inc. is Gene and Paul, with makeup, with two doppelgangers in place of Peter and Ace.
In the 30+ years since Ace Frehley first quit (or was fired, depending on whose story you believe) KISS, the Space Ace has bequeathed us with all of five solo albums. Oh yeah, there’s also the matter of a lone track, “Into the Void,” on the all-original-members, reunited KISS’s 1998 dud, Psycho Circus. Crunching the numbers shows that Frehley is averaging around one album every seven years. I suppose seven years is the amount of time it takes for Ace to orbit the galaxy in his cocaine fueled UFO, or whatever.
The newly-minted Space Invader is probably about as close as Ace is ever gonna get to the glory days of olde. The album delivers everything you’d expect from the Spaceman in a best-case scenario: melodic, mid-tempo rawk, cheesy sci-fi lyrics, and that guitar solo – a repetitive, single stuttering note, followed by a couple or three arpeggios and a final string-bending session to hammer it all home. This is the formula Frehley has, um, perfected? He’s no virtuoso, but that lead actually sounds pretty damned good. And if it sounds good, it is good.
In this way, Space Invader is the aural equivalent of Sharknado 2 – no frills and cheap thrills. Frehley and his team of hacks have prepared a rehash of the first solo album that’s convincing enough. Songs like “Gimme a Feelin’” and “What Every Girl Wants” offer the singalong, powerchord crunch that’s sure to please Frehley’s core constituency of middle-aged men and nerds (and I guess I belong to both of these categories) without being quite as puerile as his former compatriots Gene and Paul (and their hacks) – who also, incidentally, mimic that patented Ace lead in their songs.
Life kinda drags you down like that. As we age, our expectations diminish. We’re happy enough to get something, anything, that even reminds us of the fabled glory daze. As Frehley waxes poetic while getting all Major Tom up on us in “Past the Milky Way,” “I’m runnin’ out of oxygen, But I’ve still got my guitar.” So play that goddamned solo one more time.