"Space Invader"

(eOne Music)

01. Space Invader
02. Gimme a Feelin'
03. I Wanna Hold You
04. Change
05. Toys
06. Immortal Pleasures
07. Inside the Vortex
08. Past the Milky Way
09. Reckless
10. The Joker
11. The Starship

RATING: 8/10

We've now turned the page to another sad anecdote in the KISS legacy and frankly, it's best we leave the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction drama behind us. Let all parties once more go about their respective business and let the unwanted potshots subside. The damage is done and it's evident the original four will never co-habitate the same sound space ever again. What was pure magic in the 1995 "MTV Unplugged" alumni session will never be replicated and that's a shameful fact. Ace Frehley and Peter Criss may not have had their full due at the Hall, but at least the former is making the most of his Hall induction with a new record and assumedly a new lease on life.

"Space Invader" follows Frehley's last solo outing from 2009, "Anomaly", and fans who may be wondering if this new album is front loaded only, that'll be considered subjective to individual preference. It has nothing to do with Ace himself, who makes the moment count on "Space Invader", assuredly one of his finest projects. It bears nods to his personal best KISS-backed solo album from 1978 and other points in his career. Ace fields all the guitars and bass on "Space Invader" (except for THE CULT, OWL and Ozzy Osbourne affiliate Chris Wyse on "What Every Girl Wants" and "Starship") while BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, BANG TANGO and BURNING RAIN's Matt Starr fields the drums. Starr, hopping the stool in place of frequent flier Anton Fig (longtime haunt of the Paul Shaffer Band for David Letterman), does a mighty job in his own right.

The title track launches the album with exactly the right kick to get excited about this album, pulling the feel of the '78 solo album, largely on the verses. The differentiating factor here is Ace cuts loose more. Solos kick all over the place and it's no joke Ace is ready to play. The choruses are bred from a Seventies rock mentality, but there's an altered verve to it. Then the banging "Gimme a Feelin'" pumps along with a combined feel of classic KISS and Southern rock, all bursting with energy. When Ace peels off his main solo, it comes in measured doses. Instead of ripping away in the expected spot, his saves his theatrics for the opening segments of the song. A few extracurricular note jerks appear here and there, but overall, "Gimme a Feelin'" is content to be straightforward and loud.

Then "I Wanna Hold You" changes tones with a blaring, garage nod to Swinging London and mod rock, which KISS exposed their affinity for on their cover of the DAVE CLARK FIVE's "Any Way You Want It" on "Alive II". Here, Ace lives vicariously and makes it his own with terrific vitality, sprinkling guitar lines all over the final chorus and pushing beyond the base pop rocks of the cut. "Change" afterwards turns a heavier, mid-tempo dime, more at-home with the FREHLEY's COMET era and yielding subconscious LED ZEPPELIN tweaks on the chorus' lead-ins.

The slow and rowdy "Toys" (bearing no relation to "Dolls" from the first FREHLEY's COMET album) once more rekindles some of the old KISS and '78 solo album mojo without being a glaring copycat. Inherently naughty and silly on the choruses, all of it is an afterthought with Ace's massive riffs and Matt Starr's clubbing. Ace has a field day peeling off all the solos any of his fans could want in one sitting on "Toys". "Immortal Pleasures" is one of the dirtier cuts on "Space Invader", in terms of its raw delivery, greasy solo and Ace's freewheeling vocals, and funny enough, it bears some of the structures of "Dolls" without the latter's glossy keys.

"Inside the Vortex" rolls through some of the same base riffs Frehley once made his coin with, which should sit nicely with his fans, even if the choruses are little too squishy. The nostalgic rocker "What Every Girl Wants" is another cool number that feels like a playful step down the right street as Ace confidently struts the verses and changes tones just enough on the bridges to give it a new luster.

Playing his Space Ace persona all over this album, he uses "Past the Milky Way" as metaphor to past addictions and falls from grace. The only of the original four KISS members to put himself on the edge of his sleeve musically, "Past the Milky Way" is a slower-dealt reboot of Ace's previous confessional, "Rock Soldiers" in FREHLEY's COMET. "I'm not a quitter, not at any cost", he chimes along with "running out of oxygen, but I've got my guitar". As ever, you find yourself rooting for the guy to stay clean and stay active in music. Frehley overextends himself vocally on "Past the Milky Way", but his honesty and emotive guitar wails through the final third more than compensate.

There's a joyousness to Ace's acoustic and electric rolls on "Reckless" amidst his continued guilt release that keeps tapping along and grabs subliminally from the '78 record on the choruses. Only the Space Ace could get away with a laidback nudge through Steve Miller's party classic "The Joker" and have it stand for anything. As a cover tune, it's alright, but its placement after "Past the Milky Way" and "Reckless" sounds like a self-deprecating catharsis. At least Frehley dresses up his version of "The Joker" with a smoking solo and buzzing guitars from that point forward.

And what would an Ace Frehley solo album be without an instrumental closer? Finally moving past his "Fractured" pieces (sort of), we get the up-tempo, swinging lilt of "The Starship", a spirited frolic with more of a pure rock base than its predecessors. Not quite as spellbinding as the original "Fractured Mirror", still, once Frehley starts jamming away in the second half, expect a modified reprise of the sprinkling melodies of "Fractured Mirror" to manifest. It's all done with class, even as Ace jokingly shouts "Has anybody seen George Jetson?" to wrap the album.

Don't expect the world (or the outer world, for that matter) from "Space Invader", and its rocking treasures will unravel to you. Ace Frehley has his feet planted in the platform boots of his past, one that deserves more positive acknowledgement. Moving forward, though, "Space Invader" is an entertaining rocket ride, bringing with it a retro sound more welcome than merely sentimental.


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