KIX – Rock Your Face Off

KIX_Rock-Your-Face-OffIn the history of rock there has always been those bands that never made it, but damn well should have. I have a bunch of bands like that in my record collection, but one band that really are the text-book example of that is Kix. Why on earth this band never made it huge in the late 80’s is beyond me. It seems to beyond everyone I know that has heard the band as well. Kix’ brand of music – bluesy, groovy rock and roll with a swing that could make a paralyzed person get up and dance and those melodies that could make people like Desmond Child and Diane Warren green with envy, kinda like a AC/DC with a nice dose of pop thrown in – was made for both charts and stages. Kix was formed back in 1977 by lead singer Steve Whitman, guitarist Ronnie Younkins and bassist and main song writer Donnie Purnell as The Shooze, but they changed their name to first The Generators and then to Kix back in 1980 and by then drummer Jimmy Chalfant and guitarist Brian Forsythe had joined the band. Kix’ first three albums, Kix (1981), Cool Kids (1983) and Midnite Dynamite (1985) were some uneven stories, but they still managed to get some recognition. Their biggest success by far is 1988’s Blow My Fuse, their best album, in my opinion, that shipped platinum overseas (1 000 000 records), much to the fact that they managed to get a hit with their anti-suicide ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes”. But the release of the follow up, the brilliant and oh so underrated Hot Wire (1991), failed to match the sales of its predecessor, it only sold some 250 000 copies. A real shame as the album was worth a much better destiny than that. The fact that it took Kix a very long time in between albums made the audience forget about them, I guess. Three years back in the early 90’s was a very long time. When they released Show Business in 1995 grunge had taken over and it was all over for Kix. It must be said that even though the album isn’t as strong as its predecessors, it’s a really good album and could be bought unheard by any fan of the band. Of course, reunions were / are a big thing for 80’s hard rock bands and almost all the bands from that era are reunited today so the stakes against a Kix reunion couldn’t have been that high.

Said and done, in 2003 the band – minus Purnell who was replaced by Mark Schenker – decided to give it a go again and started gigging all over the place – and they actually made good business doing so. A new album wasn’t in the works at first, probably because their main song writer didn’t participate in the reunion – but you can only tour for so long before the fans craves something new. Said and done – again – the band went to work on their first album in 19 years, in the spring of 2014 and now they have finally released their new album. With a title like Rock Your Face Off, the guys certainly has a lot to live up to. Not only do they compete with their last three albums that were pretty damn awesome, they also need to show people that the title of their new album doesn’t lie. But the album limps a bit at first. Opening track “Wheels In Motion” is an ok song, but it doesn’t really convince. But it gets better already by song no. 2, “You’re Gone”. It’s a classic Kix rocker with really contagious chorus, this one could have been off the Hot Wire album and the same can be said of both “Can’t Stop The Show” and “Rollin’ In Honey”, the latter a dirty little tale about hot and sticky sex. They were great at these kind of tunes back when and Whitman, now in his 50’s something – still sounds convincing singing about it and all of a sudden things looks much, much brighter. The title track slips a bit, it’s an ok party rocker, no more, no less, but they patch things up again with “All The Right Things”, a great in your face rocker and “Dirty Girls”, a total cliché both in title, music and lyrics, but somehow the guys makes it work. “Tail On The Wag”, however, is a complete Aerosmith rip-off, but you know what they say, if you steal, make sure you steal from the best and as I don’t give a flying anything about originality, I will let that one slip, because the song is really good enough. The album closes with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Showdown”, a sweaty kick ass fist in your face, that makes for some healthy perspiration just by listening to it. Sounds like a real winner, this album, huh?

Well, see, it’s not that easy, I’m afraid. All those songs mentioned here are all great, but the fact is, this album contains too many fillers for comfort. I can’t really say that any of the songs stink, but with five out twelve tunes being more or less forgettable, I can’t help but feel that they might have rushed things a bit. Also, the absence of Donnie Purnell might have interfered with the quality on many of the songs. If I was to compare the great songs on this album with the great songs on, say Blow My Fuse or Hot Wire, I’d say I prefered the ones on those albums. That’s kind of an unfair comparison, but it kinda shows how important Purnell was for the band’s song writing. Still, no shadow over new guy Schenker, with co-writing credits on 10 of the 12 tracks, Schenker shows everyone that he’s more than just the new bass player. Thumbs up also goes out to Whitman, who hasn’t lost any of his range, rasp or attitude. Whitman’s voice is the nitty-gritty of the Kix overall sound and therefore essential for this to be working out. I will give this album a seven, but it’s a weak seven. A couple of more great tunes would have done the trick. But a very good party album, none the less.

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

1. Wheels In Motion
2. You’re Gone
3. Can’t Stop The Show
4. Rollin’ In Honey
5. Rock Your Face Off
6. All The Right Things
7. Dirty Girls
8. Inside Outside Inn
9. Mean Miss Adventure
10. Love Me With Your Top Down
11. Tail On The Wag
12. Rock & Roll Showdown


4 comments on “KIX – Rock Your Face Off

  1. You know Jon,back in 1988 Ratt, Great White and Kix were playing in Duluth Minnesota which is about a 3 hr drive from where I live,so me and my buddy bought tix. So there on the bill u have Ratt who have a platimun Album with Reach For The Sky,Great White with a platinum album with Twice Shy and Kix with a gold record with Blow My Fuse and the show gets cancelled due to lack of tickets…..that was crazy..even crazier was three later in 1991 we had tickets to DLR/Cinderella/ Extreme and yep same thing…cancelled due to lack of tix. Mind u the whole Roth North American tour was scrapped.
    Sorry to ramble,good review but me i bought Blow My Fuse and a live album they put out a few years back I think for me though thyas enough. Like your honest spin on the fillers though ..thanks buddy !

    • Cancelled gigs are a bitch. I had tickets for Cinderella with Slaughter opening in Stockholm, but they cancelled due to – what claimed – the whole Middle East Saddam Hussein thing. I think, it was due to poor ticket sales.
      About Kix, I really think you need Hot Wire as well, if you like Blow My Fuse. That’s a great album.

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