Friday, June 19, 2009


Infamously shrewd businessman Gene Simmons recently confirmed that the upcoming KISS studio album is in talks to be a Wal-Mart exclusive. Gene has obviously seen the success of the Eagles' and AC/DC's retailer exclusives, and I'm guessing he knows that an album by a nostalgia act carrying only two of its original members will need a lot of promotion to keep from tanking.

I don't know anything else about this story because I don't care. Wal-Mart is practically anti-rock; their abuse of wage and labor laws being even more offensive than their refusal to stock albums with parental warnings, birth control pills and books by George Carlin. I refuse to patronize them and urge others to do the same, but Gene's latest move doesn't bother me because he has no integrity.

As a KISS fanatic, I've watched the band embarrass themselves through lineup changes, commercial appearances, song doctors and studio musicians struggling to save the band's awful studio albums, Paul's terrible paintings, Gene's terrible magazine and reality show, and of course more chotchke merchandise than any other band in history. None of this bothers me because KISS released some of the best rock albums of the '70s and put on one of the best live shows ever. I don't count on KISS for integrity, just for rocking my socks off once the greasepaint and spikes are donned.

AC/DC is a different story. They never license their music for sampling, commercials or even iTunes, refuse to release "greatest hits" albums, never wrote a sappy commercial ballad, never hired song doctors and have maintained a more or less consistent record of great music. Thus, I was heartbroken to hear that their excellent new album Black Ice would be a Wal-Mart exclusive.

Maybe this is unfair. Integrity is something I don't expect or hope for from KISS, but seeing AC/DC cave into a deal that made them richer at the expense of fans is a letdown. But all rock stars shouldn't be held to the same standards. Imagine how disappointing it would be to see Ian McKaye act like David Lee Roth or to see Roth imitating McKaye. In the end, we should just be glad they they're all making music, but I'm still burning a copy of Black Ice and pretending that KISS aren't releasing new music.

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