I’m not sure I would have started reading “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits- All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of KISS” if I’d know it was over 10K words. Who am I kidding, I would have started it and then left the tab open for half a year. In any case, I read the whole thing in 2 sittings, and it’s quite enjoyable. Klosterman is at his best writing about metal he loves more than most people. This wouldn’t be nearly as long if it didn’t include a review of each of the albums, but how are you going to skip them when they’re right there? (Also, this marks the second KISS article I read this year, which I can’t really explain. I never liked the band at all, but they’ve got a different ethos to most bands (basically $$$), making them more interesting to read about.)
Kiss do not make it easy for Kiss fans. There’s never been a rock group so easy to appreciate in the abstract and so hard to love in the specific. They inoculate themselves from every avenue of revisionism, forever undercutting anything that could be reimagined as charming. They economically punish the people who care about them most: In the course of my lifetime, I’ve purchased commercial recordings of the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” at least 15 times2 (18 if you count the 13-second excerpt used in the introduction to “Detroit Rock City” on Destroyer). Considered alone, this is not unusual; there are lots of bands who capitalize on the myopic allegiance of their craziest disciples. In 2009, Pavement announced a reunion tour and asked their most dogged fans (myself included) to purchase tickets a whopping 53 weeks in advance. Every decision was premeditated for maximum fiscal impact. “Instead of one announcement mapping out the entire tour itinerary,” noted the Washington Post, “concerts have been announced one by one, in a fine-tuned sequence seemingly designed to maximize profits in every possible way.” It was savvy business (and almost no one complained). Yet Pavement would never brag about this level of calculation. They would rationalize their actions, or they’d remind the media that they never explicitly said they wouldn’t add extra shows, or they’d chuckle about the swindle only when no one else was around. Pavement would always take the money, but they’d simply (a) say nothing, (b) feel bad about it, or (c) pretend to feel bad about it.
One thing I’ve learned in my life is that — creatively — it’s better to have one person love you than to have 10 people like you. It’s very easy to like someone’s work, and it doesn’t mean that much; you can like something for a year and just as easily forget it even existed. But people remember the things they love. They psychologically invest in those things, and they use them to define their lives (and even if the love fades, its memory imprints on the mind). It creates an immersive kind of relationship that bleeds into the outside world, regardless of the motivating detail. In pop music, the most self-evident example is the Grateful Dead, although Rush and the Smiths fall into the same class. Another example is Fugazi. Two others are Bikini Kill and the Insane Clown Posse. These are artists who diametrically impact how substantial factions of people choose to think about the universe. The social footprint they leave is far deeper than their catalogue.