You ever notice that the best restaurants don’t have a complicated menu? They have one or two or three things that they do very well, and they leave other things to everyone else.
They don’t lose the plot.
Ace Frehley doesn’t lose the plot.
A perfectly-made cheeseburger isn’t complicated, but sometimes it’s just what you want. And Ace Frehley’s latest album, Space Invader, is a perfectly-made cheeseburger.
Something that I’m only just now able to articulate about Ace is that he is truly a rock ‘n’ roller, as opposed to a hard rock ‘n’ roller. Yes, most of his stuff tilts heavier, but if he gets an idea that goes in, say, a Buddy Holly direction, then he follows it. It’s like he respects the integrity of the thought more than he does what he’s “supposed to be,” and that’s a great thing.
That’s how he ends up finishing and recording songs like “Immortal Pleasures,” which is paradoxically both an oddball and a perfect fit on this record. This song practically announces how it developed. He noodled the first four measures, and said you know, that’s kind of dissonant, but it’s compelling, so let’s figure out how to make it work.
And it does. And there it is, popping up on your commute. And you turn your head and say “what is this?” But your potential objection fades as quickly as it appeared, because it grabs you on its terms, and you gleefully submit to the ride.
Kiss has recorded two studio albums in the 21st century. Both contained songs I thought would fit on classic Kiss records, only betrayed by modern production.
But this Ace record has me pulling the wheel the other way. Songs like “What Every Girl Wants” and the single “Gimme a Feelin'” may be the true spiritual successors to the straight ahead rock ‘n’ rollers from the first three Kiss albums. Three chords, a big chorus, and crank it up, baby.
Mmmm, I do love me a good cheeseburger.
Other longstanding Ace traditions are back, as well. The entertaining cover this time around is Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” so if hearing Ace say “pompatus” is on your bucket list, get ready to cross it off. The instrumental “Starship” breaks with the long-running “Fractured” series, while maintaining a spiritual kinship. The outer space references are more numerous than ever. (Might turn that down a little next time, man. It flirts with cornball when it’s laid on this thick.)
The only thing I really don’t like about the record is that the production seems a bit shrill from time to time. It’ll be humming along and I’ll think “wow, that’s really loud and trebly all of a sudden.” It’s subtle and a minor complaint that may not even bother some folks.
That I do not like this album as much as 2009’s Anomaly is a testimony to the excellence of that record, not a knock on this one. Space Invader is another great release from Ace, and a no-brainer for his fans. Grab it. You’ll dig it.