KISS Goes "PSYCHO" 20 Years Later

The members of Kiss have picked a surprising time to get ambitious.On their last tour, the veteran rockers cheated time by reuniting the original lineup, putting their makeup back on, and playing a show that was a dead ringer for their '70's extravaganzas. Fans who had been away for years turned up ready to rock 'n' roll all night and party every day.

Now Kiss is back with "psycho Circus," due in stores Tuesday. It's the first album in nearly two decades to feature the original lineup of Paul Stanley, (Guitars,vocals) and Gene Simmons (bass,vocals) with returning guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss.

So fans are likely expecting an album that sounds just like the old days. Instead "Psycho Circus" is one of the most diverse sets of the band's career.

The old Kiss spirit rears its head on the self-congratulatory "You Wanted The Best And You Got The Best" and the goofy "I Pledge Allegiance (to the state of rock n roll)." Both classic cases of real life imitating Spinal Tap. But the rest has everything from dead-serious metal to a psychedelic Beatles homage ("Journey of 1000 Years"). Not everything works - especially not the Criss- sung piano ballad "I Finally Found My Way"- but the album introduces a slightly more serious maybe even grown up Kiss.

"'SERIOUS' is a word we try to stay away from." Stanley said in a phone interview from his home this week. "Trying to impress everyone with how serious we can get--Forget it. Our philosophy has always been basic and straight-ahead.

"What we tried to do with this album was to use 'Destroyer' (from 1975) as the standard to at least match, if not surpass. It would have been easy to just slap another album together and go on tour. But these songs were picked apart, thrown out, rewritten turned inside out--until they were just how they were supposed to be."

There is one difference fans should notice right away: "Psycho Circus" may be the first Kiss album with absolutely no songs about sex. The sex took place after the sessions," Stanley says. "It's no secret that we like to have sex. But what took precedence over that was conveying the magic of the band and the relationship with our fans. Especially in light of the reunion tour of '96.

"We had to come in on it's heels; and they are eight inch heels."

The new release hasn't been without controversy. Internet fan sights have been buzzing with rumors that outside players were used extensively on the album. The most popular rumors are that former Kiss member Bruce Kulick played most of the guitars and even some bass: and that a mystery drummer stood in for Criss. Stanley's answer is firm, though a tad evasive.

"I'll lay it to rest very quickly. First of all, the Internet is a wonderful thing, but not if your life revolves around it. Before the album was even recorded, they were listing titles of songs that were never on the album, and were never even written. So one thing with fans is that rumors always abound.

"As far as who plays and who didn't, is really is a lot of nonsense. Not to be vague, but I believe that the rabid fans couldn't care less anyway. Because there were times in the past when the whole band didn't play on certain songs, and there were Rolling Stones songs that were just Keith Richard's and whoever was in the studio. So when you've got the magic, who cares how the trick was done? I'm here to tell you that everybody played on the album, and the rest is just a waste of time."

Next week Kiss will announce plans for a tour that's likely to hit Boston later in the fall. Stanley says there'll be surprises, but not too many. "We're not going to come out in scuba gear." A Kiss show will always be about the things synonymous with Kiss-bombs, lights and evangelical event bordering on a holy roller meeting."

Is the original Kiss lineup back for the long haul? "Absolutely -- and by that I mean, absolutely today. There was a time we said we'd never put the makeup back on and we'd never get back together. And they were all true statements when they were said.

“For now, this is Kiss until it proves otherwise. But I'd be shocked if there's ever a different lineup: this is classic one and it took 20 years to get it back. And it's GREAT to be home.”