As Kiss approach 40 years of ridiculously dumb rock & roll fun, it makes sense that their 20th studio album, Monster, is more self-referential than anything. Following 2009's Sonic Boom, the album marks the second set of tunes by a revamped "original" Kiss lineup, with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons joined by new guitarist Tommy Thayer and re-emerging drummer Eric Singer donning the makeup and personas originated by Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, respectively. Dressing up these semi-random players in the classic comic book costumes is just step one in re-creating the feel of Kiss' 1970s over the top heyday. Monster is a tremendous throwback to the superhuman partying and heavy metal Ragnarök of Kiss albums like Destroyer and Love Gun, with meaty riffs, hamfisted drumming, and a combination of Simmons' patented demonic growls and Stanley's interstellar party-starting, not to mention amounts of cowbell that would have been above average even in 1977. "All for the Love of Rock & Roll" is a big-hearted boogie rocker that would have fit on Frehley's stoney 1978 solo album, while the campily sinister metal riffage of "The Devil Is Me" and "Freak" fit more into the era of slick radio metal of 1992's Revenge. The muddy analog a cappella intro of "Eat Your Heart Out" sets the tone for tongue-in-cheek double entendres updating "Shout It Out Loud" with slightly different lyrics but the same bell-bottomed irreverence. It's only when Kiss stray from their most formulaic compositions that they start to falter. The remarkably dumb sex tale "Take Me Down Below" isn't just improbable macho fantasy, it's uninspired and boring. Musically, lyrically, and stylistically, it offers nothing, not even the joyful stupidity of the throwback feel of much of Monster. At this point in their career, attempts at innovation are Kiss' worst enemy. It's amazing to think that the bandmembers who once sang "My power is my age" and "Don't let them tell you that there's too much noise/They're too old to really understand" are still trotting out the same schtick as Paul and Gene enter their early sixties. These 12 songs might not score many new recruits for the Kiss Army, but for the innumerable fans of multiple generations who grew up with and lived their glory days listening to Kiss, the familiarity is what will make the record a keeper. With Monster, Kiss hit the mark best when rewriting the sound they developed as youngsters and when they keep it simple, predictable, and fun.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas