“I got them red-blooded white-boy blues,” Kid Rock sings. Now 44, he finds himself looking back wistfully, tracking the passage of time. He laments that “we can’t fight this getting older” — but the LP’s muscular rock & roll tells another story. The Kid has no intention of aging gracefully — happily, he’s as ornery and open-hearted as ever.
First Kiss kicks off with the title track, a killer-hook echo of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” that memorializes early days rocking to “Tom Petty on the radio.” Hank Williams Jr. stands proudly next to the Savior in the fiddle-and-organ ballad “Jesus and Bocephus.” And depending on which piece of the Rock you prefer — sentimental or irascible — you get your choice of clean or explicit bonus tracks: a beautifully arranged breakup song titled either “Say Goodbye” (with affecting lyrics by Seger) or “FOAD” (short for “Fuck Off and Die,” with bitter words by the Kid).
First Kiss presents few surprises, mostly because Kid Rock’s journey from abrasive rap metal to unreconstructed heartland rock has landed him in a sweet spot: big guitars, big drums, big choruses and gravelly vocals. “I know what’s right,” he declares on the thumping “Ain’t Enough Whiskey,” and there’s no arguing with music offered with this degree of energy, joy and conviction.