Wayne Parry, Associated Press
Kiss, "Monster" (Universal)
Nearly 40 years after first slapping on the makeup, donning the costumes and changing forever the way a live concert is performed, Kiss can still bring it.
"Monster" is the caped crusaders' 20th studio album, and one that fans of old school '70s classic rock will be just as comfortable with as those who cut their teeth on later material.
It opens with a bang in "Hell or Hallelujah," a fast-paced rocker that could be the band's best concert opener since "I Stole Your Love," way back in 1977 (though they put it in the middle of the set this summer).
Imagine a mash-up of "Helter Skelter" and Kiss' 1992 track "Spit," and you've got "Wall of Sound," a dramatic, ground-pounder. "Freak" uses a grungier distorted sound to showcase the band's longstanding philosophy of not caring what anyone else thinks of them. And "Back To The Stone Age" features Eric Singer's pounding drums with a beat reminiscent of the Stones' "Live With Me."
This is guitarist Tommy Thayer's second studio album with Kiss since replacing Ace Frehley in 2003 (and completely stealing his musical identity to the point where the FBI should have been notified). His first outing, 2009's "Sonic Boom" LP, was marred by rampant theft from Frehley's classic solos.
This time, Thayer restrains his most larcenous impulses. These solos won't make anyone forget Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads, but at least most of them are his.
Things bog down somewhat on tracks in the middle of the disc, but finish strong on "Last Chance," propelled by an AC/DC-like "Thunderstruck" chant. This album isn't "Destroyer" or even "Love Gun," but it's still worth having.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Right Here Right Now" is available only on iTunes or on a Best Buy version of the album, but it should have made the full album cut; it's better than at least half the tracks on the album.
Wallflowers uneven on 'Glad All Over'
Scott Bauer, Associated Press
The Wallflowers, "Glad All Over" (Columbia)
"Glad All Over," The Wallflowers' first release in seven years, is an uneven return for the roots-rock band fronted by Jakob Dylan, the guy with the famous dad.
While the disc flirts with greatness, especially on the two tracks featuring former Clash guitarist Mick Jones, the majority feels a little phoned in and predictable.
At its best, like on "Misfits and Lovers," the band delivers its signature Bruce Springsteen-inspired, gravelly voiced, gritty garage band rock sound, complete with catchy hooks and driving rhythm.
But too often "Glad All Over" feels like a compilation of rejected ideas and riffs that are somewhat engaging but nowhere near as well executed as "Bringing Down the Horse," the 1996 record that brought the band its biggest hits and accolades.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Reboot the Mission" a Clash-inspired tune appropriately enough featuring Jones on guitar and also includes droll references to the latest reconfiguration of the band: "Welcome Jack, the new drummer/He jammed with the mighty Joe Strummer."
Zedd aces his freshman album test
Ron Harris, Associated Press
Zedd, "Clarity" (Interscope)
German electro-house producer Zedd is out with his debut album "Clarity," a solid full-length starter that showcases his knack for honing danceable tracks to a fine point of perfection.
Zedd was born Anton Zaslavski into a family of musicians, but didn't start catching full fire as a dance music maestro until his efforts were justly rewarded in 2009 with two Beatport remix contest wins. Now, three years later, he stands poised to dominate dance floors.
It shouldn't be a problem. There are some delicious tracks here, from the immediate urgency of "Shave It Up" to "Codec," a full-on foot-stomper with an incessant beat that refuses to give you a moment's rest.
The vocal features on "Clarity" are among the best you'll hear in house this year. Ellie Goulding is excellent on "Fall Into the Sky" and the title track "Clarity," featuring Foxes, is an instant classic. "If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy?" goes the refrain before breaking into a heady swirl of house.
With "Clarity," Zedd just aced his freshman LP test. The album is technically well-managed and the songs pulse with a common sense of longing. For love. For the dance floor. For all of it.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Matthew Koma brings a crushing cool to his feature appearance on "Spectrum," a song interspersed with dubstep-ish beat breaks amid the soaring vocals that aim for the rafters. Supremely solid stuff from both men on this track.