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10,000 Volts Would be Better than This

Updated: May 8

Former KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley's latest full-length release, 10,000 Volts, landed shockingly on record store shelves Friday, February 23. His latest tape offers an inside look at everything the Spaceman has been up to in the four years since the release of his last collection of covers, Origins Vol. 2. Over the course of the album's 11 brand new original tracks, the Spaceman does very little to reestablish to his audience that he should be taken seriously as a solo act, or at the very least, remembered as more than a KISS sublet.

Frehley's eighth studio album plays like a retirement home reunion show, stylistically treading into cartoonish classic rock territory, at times sounding more like a Scooby-Doo soundtrack than a serious rock album. 10,000 Volts was predominantly produced by Broadway star and TRIXTER founder Steve Brown, despite what most of the recording credits will tell you, and runneth over with incredible instrumental performances. Frehley, unfortunately, is the main factor weighing this record down, with the rock veteran's derivative sound and amateurish performance style ultimately driving the record's overall palatability into the dirt. The Spaceman's Bronx accent thickening with age and a lack of vocal practice coupled with his juvenile lyrical content build the image of your grandfather shouting incoherently at the female newscasters on CNN while [insert 70's rock band here] is being blasted in another room.

10,000 Volts can be broken down into three general categories. First, you have "grandad used to be in a band back in the day," made up of tracks that cover something along the lines of "forgetting the past," or some sort of watery notion of forgiveness and moving on from personal wrongdoings. Throughout this section of the album, Frehley tries his damndest to pass along his wisdom of the ages regarding staying true to yourself and how he's totally not bitter or caught up in any post-KISS drama from the last five years, best exemplified by the songs "Cosmic Heart" and "Life of a Stranger." In "Cosmic Heart," Frehley speaks on his strength of heart and mind, his unwillingness to compromise, and his unwavering dedication to be undeniably himself, best communicated, of course, through metaphors for godhood and immortality. Guitar solo.

Similarly, in "Life of a Stranger," he speaks on being lifted from the proverbial alleyways by an unspecified savior, thanking them for turning them away from the darkness after being deserted by totally no one in particular. "Who sent a message/That I was hanging by a thread?/By this very time tomorrow/They would leave me here for dead," Frehley sings during the second chorus. Contrarily, "Stratosphere," the album's outro track, is just three minutes of Spaceman licks and 70's, 80's style twinkles, which, admittedly, is pretty damn neat.

The second category, "grandad is frightened by the future he's found himself in," is slightly less nuanced. As Frehley's significant other, Rachel Gordon, explained on Facebook in 2019, "Ace is VERY sober now and knows what’s happening. He sees things clearly now." Frehley sees through all the conspiratorial mumbo jumbo in the media, and he's here to deliver the truth to the people. Big Brother is always watching and we don't know who to trust anymore "[because] we're blinded by science," or so he belts on "Blinded." Frehley finds that it's his responsibility, daresay, his duty, to deliver a warning about the future to his heedless listeners, using tracks like "Blinded" and "Up in the Sky" to cry wolf, alerting us to the dangers of modern science and technology, advising us to be wary of diversionary news cycles and untrustworthy legislative systems, and of course, inexplicable lights shining down from above.

10,000 Volts third and arguably most important category is "grandad is recently divorced and being creepy at the cookout." You'd best understand what I'm talking about if you watched the accompanying music video for the album's third and most recent single, "Cherry Medicine." The song itself covers Frehley near terminal need for medical-grade, leather clad sex, hammered in by the decision to place Frehley in the middle of several leather clad women, Hugh Hefner style, for the majority of the music video. Not to mention Frehley's boring and unemphatic vocals make the track sound like an Elmer Fudd Merrie Melody (look it up), which only dates the record even further back.

Outside of the creep show that is "Cherry Medicine," Frehley somehow still manages to find the time to up the ante on "Walkin' on the Moon" and "Constantly Cute," the lyrics to which sound and read simultaneously like old folks home love letters and grocery store harassment, as both of these tracks dance between romantic endearment and blatant social unawareness. "Girl, you fill my every void/Girl, you're not just another toy," Frehley moans drearily on "Walkin' on the Moon." Or better yet, on "Constantly Cute," the 72 year-old croons "You’re sweet just like honey/You're so delicious, my taste buds smile." These lyrics would be off-putting coming from a young band, but they're only made worse by the fact that they're coming from a guy with the thickest Bronx accent in the sandwich shop.

10,000 Volts is a last ditch effort to maintain a spotlight in a decade that is hurriedly distancing itself from superstars past. Between the slew of reunion tours and surprise albums from jaded bands and singers, the new generation is very quickly coming to the realization that it wants more from it's idols and favorites, and contractual obligations and tried-and-true sounds and styles are no longer enough to satisfy the rock crowd. If this record is indicative of anything, it's that Ace Frehley needs to find a way to get a slice of the virtual KISS pie. Otherwise, he'll have no other choice but to face his rapidly impending fate: irrelevancy.

Rob Lucchesi

Ace Frehley


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