Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Entertainment One Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
Ace Frehley putting out new music in 2014 is almost as miraculous as the fact that he’s still floating above Earth’s surface. The original lead guitarist of KISS has lived a little—the oceans of alcohol and boatloads of blow, the endless groupies and piles of money, and a few wrecked cars. The Space Ace might truly be a miracle of science. Fair or not, he’s also the one original member of KISS with any serious musical cred; his guitar playing has influenced thousands and is an immeasurable part of the band’s sound.
Coming off a year where Kiss' induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame came off as the ungrateful Gene and Paul show, original member and now solo outsider Ace Frehley had something to prove, at least to the loyal fans (aka the Kiss Army). As such, Space Invader is the required retro return, one that's well-executed, from its '80s video game title to its mix of thick, singalong rockers and laid-back guitar show pieces. Of the latter, "Past the Milky Way" ("I sail past the Milky Way/Just to hold you in my arms") is the kind of midtempo, Blue Öyster Cult-like stuff that supports comic book lyrics like "Let's rendezvous on Mars" so well, while the closing "Starship" is a six-stringer's delight, jangling along with Ace in acoustic mode and reminding fans that his constant referencing of the Beatles sometimes comes through in his music.
While still involved in a long-running war of words with his former KISS compatriots Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, guitarist Frehley remains in thrall to the straight-ahead, no-nonsense rock that was the band’s bread-and-butter and which has paid his bills for over 40 years. Space Invader, his first solo effort since 2009’s Anomaly, is so generically linked to his past that any of these songs could have come from any point in the group’s back catalogue. But is there anything wrong with that? Without wishing to sound snooty, the typical KISS fan probably isn’t looking for a wholesale reinvention, a daring envelope-pusher of a record.
Gene Simmons has claimed that Ace Frehley doesn't deserve to wear Kiss Kabuki clown paint, but the former Spaceman's first solo LP in five years says otherwise. Sure, the guitars don't always give off Frehley's trademark flames, and there isn't anything as catchy as his '78 solo smash, "New York Groove" – but Space Invader does have a carefree abandon that Kiss' 21st-century LPs have lacked. It also contains any number of lyrics cringe-worthy enough for his old band ("You're lookin' so tight/I'm gonna make you feel just right," from the lubricious "What Every Girl Wants").
Ace Frehley is the most affable member of the original KISS and is responsible for more kids picking up guitars during the 1970s than anyone. He’s a cool guy. His output since leaving KISS more than 30 years ago has been minimal but often impressive. So news that the Spaceman was returning with a new one five years after 2009’s Anomaly was more than welcome.