After the huge commercial success of Blow My Fuse, it would take Kix some three years to come up with Hot Wire -- the band's fifth album and probably its most focussed record to date. Coming off the commercial triumphs of Blow My Fuse, on the surface, all was peachy keen in the Kix camp. Big problems, however, laid just ahead for the act. For one, the band's financial woes had been mounting for years. Even though they were coming off a platinum-selling release, the band was severely indebted to Atlantic; the album had not only failed to wipe out their previous debt, it had exacerbated it. When all was said and done, the band collectively (save for publishing) hadn't made a penny off any of their previous releases. Notwithstanding, standing on an edge of a cliff was nothing new for this bunch. Still, they were determined to write a strong follow-up to their coming-out effort. Little did they know that yet other outside musical forces would put a monkey wrench in their plans. By late 1991, it was clear that popular music was in the midst of undergoing a major cultural shift. A little band by the name of Nirvana was set on a course to wipe the hair rock slate clean, decimating all naysayers in its path-- with Kix being the perfect case in point. Siphoning their financial problems furthermore, the band allowed itself to be bamboozled into shifting labels within the Time Warner corporate culture. The powers that be wanted Kix to be a part of the new Atlantic sub-affiliate, EastWest Records America. In hindsight, this proved to be a bad career move for the band. Not only were their backs against the wall trying to compete with future grunge heroes like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, they now had to contend themselves with a whole new set of label suits to work their record. Facing some pretty insurmountable challenges, Kix got to work. Music Grinder and Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles were chosen for the tracking of Hot Wire. After the final mixes were put to bed, it was clear that the band had emerged with what proved to be by far their best sounding record ever. From album opener "Hot Wire" through "Hee Bee Jee Bee Crush," it's clear that Whiteman and company's confidence level had never been better. Now more than ever, the band was paying homage to their musical rabbis, AC/DC. To demonstrate the point, the album's delightful first single "Girl Money" turns into a full-on tribute performance to Bon Scott's classic tale of debauchery, "The Jack." The track absolutely rocks and in 1989 probably would have established the band as superstars of their genre. Even though "Girl Money" garnered some decent MTV airplay, it wouldn't be able to compete with the gloom and doom now coming out of Seattle. Hot Wire's big power ballad surfaces in the shape of "Tear Down the Walls." The band puts in a valiant effort but unfortunately sounds completely outdated. More solid rockers color the remainder of the record including "Bump the La La," "Rock n' Roll Overdose" (which sounds a lot like Hanoi Rocks), and the heavy on Led Zeppelin-meets-Aerosmith ditty, "Same Jane." Looking back, Hot Wire may prove to the band's most accomplished effort from start to finish. It's too bad that cultural forces stopped it dead in its tracks.
Hot Wire Review
by John Franck