Examining KISS’ Dynasty (40 Years Later)

By Jonathan Meisner

 

KISS is my favorite band of all-time.

Sure, there are other bands that I’m a huge fan of, but KISS changed my life forever back in the early nineties when a friend introduced me to them. Sometimes though when you love something or someone so much you can have a hard time being objective. This person or group can seemingly do no wrong in your eyes, you’re that deep into the fandom and the love that you have for them.

But, I’ve always been able to inject some much-needed objectivity whenever the situation calls for it. I’m not afraid to call out my favorite band in the world when they perform a misstep along the way, and today on PopLurker I’m taking a closer look at one of those very missteps with the bands 1979 album, Dynasty.

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Gene’s face and everyone else’s boredom is perfect foreshadowing for this shit heap.

It’s been 40 years since this record was released. I remember liking it as a kid but not loving it; though to be fair I also thought Chef Boyardee was the preeminent name in ravioli, with age comes perspective. I’ve talked at length about everything I thought KISS was the best at, but what about something that can arguably be called the worst? So, one afternoon I put on Dynasty to see if it truly is a bad record or if it was better than I remembered. Hopefully I don’t get sent to the asylum by the time I’m finished.

 

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Peter looks like he’s happy to be institutionalized after this album, and Ace’s eyes are seducing me with promises of better music.

I Was Made for Loving You:

Oh, man. This song leads the record off. It was all I could do not to hit stop or skip once that disco beat kicked into high gear.

Paul once said he got the inspiration to write this song when he was dancing at a club and thought to himself, “this stuff is easy to write”, and wrote ‘I Was Made for Loving You’ in twenty minutes while sitting on his couch– and it shows here. Disco was at its absolute peak during this period in the bands career and while they achieved commercial success with this song, to look back at the band just a few years prior and then to look at them here, it must’ve felt like Rock Bottom for even the most die-hard KISS fan.

 

2,000 Man:

It’s both hilarious and sad that the best song on the record would be a Rolling Stones cover, but here we are. It also makes sense that we can thank Ace and his rock and roll sensibilities for this.

Ace was riding high both literally and figuratively after the success of his ’78 solo record. Ace’s album was the most straight ahead rock and roll sounding of the four, so thankfully his contributions to Dynasty with this cover track and a couple other songs further down the list salvaged the album from being a complete waste.

 

Sure Know Something:

This is the other slice of bread for the disco sandwich that surrounds 2,000 Man.

Sure Know Something is a better song than I Was Made for Loving You but that’s like saying the tornado only blew down half of your house. Again, to look at KISS from just a few years prior to this is jarring. In the mid seventies the band was dirty and grimy and badass. By the end of the decade KISS had become the equivalent of Malibu Stacy with a new hat.

Speaking of dirty, that takes us to the next song on the record.

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Dirty Livin’:

With a title like Dirty Livin’ KISS fans might expect something raw, dark and sleazy like Black Diamond or Strange Ways, especially with Peter handling the vocals here, but this song is way too upbeat and poppy and well…lame.

I’ve always enjoyed Peter’s vocals with that whole New Yawk smoke a pack a day raspiness, and while this song is catchy and has a swing to it, even the Catman couldn’t land on his feet with this one.

 

Charisma:

I distinctly remember this being the opening track for the album when I was a kid. Granted I had Dynasty on cassette so maybe this was the first song on the album in that format. However, according to Wikipedia and Google Play it’s buried here in the middle of the record at number five.

I kind of liked this song growing up, but Charisma has not aged well with time, and while I’ve always admired Gene for branching out and never being afraid to jump and experiment musically, this sounds and feels like a leftover from his ’78 solo album; which after three decades of being a member of the KISS Army, I still don’t quite understand. The lyrics are fine and are your typical Gene bravado, but the song just drones on way too much for my liking.

 

Magic Touch:

It’s no secret that all four members of KISS are huge Beatles fans. Gene and Paul have said from day one their goal was to form a band similar to the Fab Four. From four-part harmonies to developing their own distinct personalities. Paul has also said KISS was a street band from New York but with a song like Magic Touch KISS was rapidly losing street cred and were becoming less Brooklyn and the Bronx and more Westchester or the Hamptons.

Paul has always been the lover, the ladies’ man and the romantic but the dude can rock when he needs to, but while there’s a decent riff within the song, I’m just not feeling the magic here when there’s better Paul material out there like Strutter or I Want You. It may be time to leave and get another quart by the time I get to the end of this album.

 

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Hard Times:

Leave it to our favorite Spaceman to save the day again.

While there are superior Ace Frehley songs both pre and post Dynasty, after the last four songs we’ve listened to this is a welcome relief.

Listening to Hard Times and 2,000 Man next to the other songs that round out the album it really feels to me like Ace was trying his hardest to make a different record. While Ace had no issues partying under the bright lights at disco hotbeds like Studio 54, the Bronx Boy never lost sight of his hard rock roots. Hard Times is an appropriate description of having to relive this album in 2019, but we’re almost at the end, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

 

X-ray Eyes:

The second entry from the God of Thunder doesn’t exactly bring the…thunder.

With the most piano that I’ve heard since the studio version of Nothing to Lose or Great Expectations from Destroyer, X-ray Eyes sounds like another leftover from the Gene ’78 album. Ace lays down a decent solo, but if KISS fans were still hanging in here by this point in the record, they didn’t need x-ray eyes of their own to see that there was some definite cause for concern.

 

Save Your Love:

We’ve made it to the end, in more ways then one.

The final track on the record, this got stuck in my head for days afterward. It’s certainly catchy, and lyrically it kind of sounds like a sequel to Rip It Out with Ace singing about an old flame, but Save Your Love lacks the same punch and ferocity.

The most interesting line here in retrospect is when Ace says “we had some good times, but now it’s over” and while he may have been singing about an ex-girlfriend at the time, if that line doesn’t unintentionally sum up KISS to end the decade, then I don’t know what does.

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Remember earlier I mentioned objectivity? Objectively speaking Dynasty is a bad album, but for better or worse it’s also an historic album. It has it’s place in KISStory

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park may have been the beginning of the end, but Dynasty would be the final nail in the KISS Kasket for the band as we knew and loved them for years to come. Peter would be gone by the next album, Unmasked. Ace would depart just a few years later and while KISS maintained some level of success into the 80’s and 90’s, the Hottest Band in the World would never really be the same.

But for us members of the KISS Army we can leave Dynasty on the shelf and in 1979 where it belongs, because we love it loud, we’re dressed to kill and we’ll shout it out loud for the world to hear that disco sucks!

 

You can get groovy with Jonathan on Twitter.

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