Wednesday, August 20, 2014

'Space Invader' by Ace Frehley album review

SPACE INVADER is full-on Ace Frehley.

In fact, Space Ace's follow-up to his 2009 album ANOMALY is a two-musician show. Frehley handles all the guitar work on each song and plays bass on all but one of the 12 SPACE INVADER tracks while the appropriately surnamed Matt Starr is the drummer for all 12 songs. There are only two exceptions: Chris Wyse is the bassist on "What Every Girl Wants" and the instrumental "Starship" while Alex Salzman plays keyboards on "Change."

Frehley is the single composer or co-writer of the 11 original tunes. "The Joker," the famous Steve Miller Band song, is the next to last track. While Frehley does an admirable and fun take, it's hardly necessary.

As with so many of — if not all of — Frehley's albums, SPACE INVADER ends with an instrumental. Gone is the umpteenth variation of "Fractured Mirror" (which concluded his 1978 self-titled KISS solo album) — and that's refreshing. Unlike "Fractured Mirror," which emphasizes acoustic-sounding arpeggios, "Starship" is hook-heavy and even more than Frehley's first instrumental, this one exudes a dreamy, sci-fi feeling. The KISS co-founder puts an exclamation point on that by ending the song by asking "Have you seen George Jetson?" — followed by Frehley's iconic cackle.

The new album isn't as heavy sounding as ANOMALY, but good or bad, it has a decidedly Ace Frehley sound and vibe.

There's even a classic KISS connection to SPACE INVADER; fantasy artist and Space Ace's longtime friend Ken Kelly designed the cover. Members of the KISS Army should know Kelly created the iconic images for the albums DESTROYER and LOVE GUN.

Space Ace loads each song with hard-rock riffs. While the tunes have strong hooks and the melody and chorus of each song are catchy enough, none of them have any lasting power. Frehley's singing voice once again is as much a melodic way of speaking in rhythm as it is singing. As I inferred: Classic Ace. (For the record, that's no criticism of Frehley; in the words of the contemporary cliché: It is what it is.)
(Promo image courtesy of Ace Frehley's official Facebook page.)

As with so many rock veterans, it's admirable Frehley has created new material, but these songs can't compare to his classic catalog. There's no doubt Frehley fanatics will look forward to the next tune the "Spaceman" wrote for KISS, his unforgettable '78 album or Frehley's Comet when he plays any of the new tunes live.

Lyrically, SPACE INVADER is standard hard-rock fare. To be nice, let's just say Frehley hasn't exactly developed as a lyricist — not unlike KISS co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on the band's latest album, MONSTER.

However, you have to give Frehley some credit for exploring the ramifications of being an improper environmentalist when a God-like alien takes his reckoning ("Space Invader"). On "Toys," he asserts even a decidedly wild, sex-and-drugs rock-n-roller doesn't need such a lifestyle any more.

The solos are where Frehley shines. He sounds as hot as ever on the fretboard and strings — even his newest set of songs aren't. Grade: B+

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