Since the 1996 reunion tour was a blockbuster success, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided to keep Peter Criss and Ace Frehley around for a little while longer -- long enough to record a full-fledged reunion album, Psycho Circus. Anyone expecting a stylistic breakthrough from a reunited (allegedly revitalized) Kiss would be unfamiliar with the band's history. Throughout the years, the only real change has been in the guitarists and drummers; the band's sleazy, big, dumb pop-metal has remained the same. The problem is, it's the kind of music that sounds more convincing when it's performed by a young, hungry band that makes records on the cheap. That way, the albums really sound as sleazy as the men who make them. As the band pushes 50, Kiss no longer sound young, hungry, or sleazy -- they sound like professional dirty old men. And since they're professionals, they can turn out some catchy hooks when called upon, but Psycho Circus ultimately feels worn out, more of a huge advertisement for an impending tour than a full-fledged record. Certainly, they're crafty enough to toss out a few anthems to please fans ("I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll," "You Wanted the Best"), and that may be enough to appease fans longing for an album by a reunited Kiss, especially since Frehley is a better, more charismatic guitarist than anyone else that has floated through the band. But cynics (i.e., anyone who isn't a hardcore fan) will probably view it as pandering. Which raises an interesting question: who is more cynical, Kiss for writing fan-baiting rock & roll anthems simply to sell records, or the reviewers who call them on it?
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine