The Kiss army is going to mutiny when they hear "I Was Made for Lovin' You," the disco-inflected leadoff track on the Masked Marvels' latest album. They'll demand to know why their heroes, after years of rallying the troops into battle against disco and other threatening schlock, have turned tail and joined forces with uptown popsters like producer Vini Poncia (whose soft-rock credentials include LPs by Ringo Starr and Melissa Manchester) and singer/tunesmith Desmond Child (who cowrote the offending song with Kiss' Paul Stanley).
But Dynasty is Kiss' eleventh record — not including last year's four solo discs — and apparently the time has come to increase the band's credibility quotient outside the headbangers' community. A cover photo by Francesco Scavullo is one obvious tip-off, and the tentative disco rhythms in both "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and "Dirty Livin'" are another. Kiss also offers the hip gesture of including the Rolling Stones' "2,000 Man" as the album's token cover version. But, unfortunately, this move backfires because, whereas the Stones were playfully psychedelic in the Their Satanic Majesties Request original, Kiss humorlessly trots out the same old buzz-saw guitars and goose-stepping drums over which Ace Frehley sings with absolutely no conviction.
Much of the blame for Dynasty's sorry lack of spark can be laid at Poncia's console. Poncia — who just as timidly produced drummer Peter Criss' solo LP — has smothered most of the fire in the classic Kiss sound, reducing the guitars, drums and even Gene Simmons' bloody howl to a pseudosophisticated whimper that makes the group's ragged 1973 debut disc sound like apocalypse now. Only Stanley's "Sure Know Something" is salvaged — and that by one of the new record's few memorable hooks.
Kiss itself still has to answer for erratic playing and an increasingly dull songbook that may never transcend the brainlessly brilliant "Rock and Roll All Nite (and Party Everyday)." You can't blame these guys for trying, but the respect they so earnestly crave is far more than just a kiss away.