On “Immortal Pleasures”, one of the best tracks on his new album, “Space Invader”, rock icon and hall of famer Ace Frehley sings “I’ve reached the top, there’s no more need for climbing”. He’s right and wrong at the same time of course; Ace is clearly a legend with nothing to prove, yet 2014 finds Ace yet again exploring and creating at an even higher level than his last album, 2009’s “Anomaly”.
Anyone who actually knows me or has seen my Ace Frehley tattoo is already aware I am a huge KISS dork but I just wanted to note that for those readers who are unaware. In other words, cut me some slack for the fact that this review is clearly coming from a diehard perspective (although I think Ace, his record label and management are pretty aware that is his target audience anyway).
“Anomaly” was a really good record and was rightfully lauded as a return to form for the Spaceman. I wore out a copy or two of it myself and still think “A Little Below The Angels” is one of his best songs ever. Having said that, “Space Invader” (to be released August 19th) finds Ace a little more focused and as a result the overall album feels much, much more cohesive than “Anomaly”. It all kicks off with the title track which is heavy , memorable and somehow reminiscent of both his best 80s “Comet” era stuff and his classic 1978 solo album. “Space Invader” has a wall of sound, great riffs and even some surprising time signature changes coupled with thoughtful lyrics.
Speaking of those simultaneously released 1978 records, the KISS guys were probably most pissed off that of all the original solo albums Ace’s seemed to have the most pop appeal. “Gimme A Feelin”, the first radio track and release from the new album proves Ace still has that pop flair and so do a few other tracks on the new album including “I Wanna Hold You” and “What Every Girl Wants”. Ace’s strangely unique vocals have truly never sounded better, the drumming is phenomenal and the leads are soaring on all of these tracks but while I love them they are not my personal favorites on “Space Invader”.
Everyone will find their own loves on this record and my current three are the aforementioned “Immortal Pleasures” which is just brilliant on all levels along with the similarly progressive and boundary pushing tracks “Change” and “Past The Milky Way”. I mentioned the lyrics earlier, they really are great on all of these songs (when’s the last time you said that about a Gene Simmons penned track?). “Change” is a deeply personal track that resonates with a refreshingly simple and direct message to stop looking for excuses and “pick yourself up and change” and may be my absolute favorite.
“Past The Milky Way” is dedicated to Ace’s girlfriend Rachael and of all the 12 tracks here most closely resembles something from that 1978 era both musically and lyrically. When Ace sings “I’m running out of oxygen but I’ve still got my guitar” it’s hard not to smile and be happy for the guy; clearly his new relationship has him focused and in the zone here on “Space Invader”, good for him and good for all of us.
One of the most surprising tracks on the album to me is the song “Toys” which recalls an even earlier era of the Spaceman with crushing fun riffs ala “Strange Ways” or “Parasite”, the lyrics are classic Ace and are both kickass and hilarious at the same time. Before it all wraps up and in typical Ace fashion the party ends with a fun cover of one of my all-time favorite classic rock tracks, Steve Miller Band’s “Joker” and a guitar orgy instrumental “Starship” (that incidentally features some really inspired basslines and a final, hilarious spoken line at the end from Ace that you will have to hear for yourself).
I’m ready to push play all over again on “Space Invader” and am one happy KISS/ACE fan who will be happy to preorder a hard copy of this record for my car. If you’ve ever had even a passing interest in Ace you need to pick up this record. Five Spacethumbs up!
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