I was standing in a puddle of vomit in the nose-bleed seats when Kiss launched into “Cold Gin.” This was late 80’s, back when I frequented more than a few Kiss shows. At ten second intervals, the drunken chap in front of me (perhaps responsible for the puddle) would scream atop of his lungs “Ace wrote it!!”
Did he like to imbibe adult beverages and an opiate or two? Mos def, holmes.
Regardless, as a child, I was as mesmerized by the Spaceman Ace Frehley as any other kid on my block. Once again, thank Paul Lynde for that. Ace had a fantastical look and the musical chops of some of the greats. Was he kooky? You know it. Maybe even eccentric? You betcha. Did he like to imbibe adult beverages and an opiate or two? Mos def, holmes. Maybe that made him the most interesting writer in the group, who knows. He definitely made some of the best music released by that band. Here are five tracks that bolster his place in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Gene and Paul are not your typical rock stars and famously eschewed alcohol and drugs for supplemental helpings of anonymous sex. Ace and Peter? They embraced the whole enchilada. Ace wasn’t involved in multiple car crashes due to sobriety, I can assure you. So it’s mildly ironic (don’t you think?) that Gene takes lead vocals on this ode to juniper-flavored spirits written by Ace.
Ace’s voice is an acquired taste. It reeks of New Yawk Fuggedaboutit. Maybe that’s why Gene sang “Cold Gin” all those years ago. In 1978 each member of the band released a solo record and Ace’s was the best hands-down. So much so that a few tracks from it appear on this list – even though he also wrote Kiss staples like “Strange Ways,” “Talk to Me,” “Shock Me,” “Rocket Ride, “Dark Light,” and others.
I’m in Need of Love
Ace had a killer backing band on his first solo record that included Anton Fig on drums and Will Lee on bass. The band tears through killer tracks like “Rip It Out,” “Speedin’ Back to My Baby,” “Ozone,” and “Wiped-Out.” Ace delivered in ways Paul and Gene probably thought were impossible.
Fan favorite “Parasite” makes it to the top of the very best Kiss songs for good reason. It’s heavy and hooky in ways Kiss often forgets to re-embrace. Ace re-recorded the track on his latest record Origins Vol 1. This time, he handled vocals, too.
There is no better composition in the Kiss repertoire than “Fractured Mirror.” Hands down it’s the most sophisticated thing any member has put to tape. While Ace has recorded more than a few sequels on subsequent solo records, none of them replicate the magic in a bottle captured here. The instrumental “Fractured Mirror” points to a Kiss that could have been.
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?