I grew up listening to KISS. In 1978, my parents bought me an eight-track version of Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album -- I was in 2nd grade. Now, many many years later, I remember listening to two tracks ("Tunnel of Love" & "Living in Sin") over and over. Maybe it was the sequencing on the eight-track tape; maybe it was because I was an aspiring drummer; in any case, those two songs captivated me the most.
Fast forward to 2004 and the second Gene Simmons solo album. Marketed sleekly as a culmination of the many influences KISS bassist enjoys, Asshole is not what I was expecting. There are two tracks, "Sweet & Dirty Love" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction," that are remotely close to what I was expecting -- KISS songs in the same vein as "Boomerrang" from Hot in the Shade or the aforementioned "Tunnel of Love." That doesn't surprise me since Bruce Kulick plays guitar and Eric Singer slams the drums on these songs. I sense an uncredited Paul Stanley singing background vocals on a couple of lines in "Sweet & Dirty Love" as well. So, on one level, Gene Simmons has satisfied what I was expecting.
The other element in my expectation comes from the fact that this is the man that has given us the lewd lines we remember when the name of the release fades from recent memory and becomes a smile. (I'm thinking of the "Let me put my log in your fireplace" line in "Burn Bitch Burn" from Animalize). This is the man that has slept with so many women, he can't keep track.
Instead, except for the aforementioned two tracks, I get lyrics like "And here I'm all alone/ Sitting by the telephone" in the tune "Waiting For The Morning Lig," which was co-written with Bob Dylan. Let's not kid ourselves. Those lyrics suck. I'd rather listen to Vanilla Ice's comeback CD than that drivel. The next track, "Beautiful," shows Simmons sinking lower than "Light" as he tries to evoke the Beatles, and fails.
Then we get to the title track. If the lyrics were cleaned up just a bit, this would replace Good Charlotte on rock radio. Seriously. Imagine a catchy guitar riff with an interesting hook and you have this song. And like the entire Good Charlotte CD, the lyrics on this song are digging into me like a misdirected fishing hook -- the more you pull out, the more pain you feel, until you decide, "Ah, hell. Live with it." Lyrics in the chorus include "You're such a creep / You look like a sheep / (Baaa) / Asshole."
"Now That You're Gone" brings a subtle John Lennon sound to your ears. I can hear this song being one that I dig out this release to hear again. The laid-back vocal delivery and kids singing background make this an unexpected gem on this release. On the other hand, "Whatever Turns You On" sounds like a rap song, with all sorts of dialogue and questioning (a female vocalist asks, "Say what?") after Simmons sings a line. This song doesn't do much for me.
"Dog" is closer to what I was expecting lyrically when Simmons sings, "You know I kinda love ya / all the way to the bitter end / because you're breaking my balls / you're making me crawl." Simmons is at his best when directly confronting his subject. The next track, "Black Tongue" continues that trend with these lyrics, "If everyone says you're much too old / You're out of style / Just tell 'em you do their sister and mommy / Everyone once in a while."
"Carnival of Souls" reeks too much like "Psycho Circus" for me to tolerate. "Psycho Circus" has to be the worst song KISS has ever recorded. ( firstname.lastname@example.org if you have another nominee for this title.) "If I Had a Gun" is forgettable. "1000 Dreams" ends this release in a similar vein to the 1978 cover of "When You Wish Upon a Star" -- a needless dip into the pool of country, complete with steel guitar.
After listening to this release more than 5 times, the weak tracks definitely overpower the vibe of this release. I have resolved that Simmons didn't release this CD for me -- he released it for himself, much as he has done throughout his colorful career in KISS.