The excesses of the rock'n'roll lifestyle are very well known and these details spelled out in a rock star's memoir are no longer shocking. Every once in awhile though one comes along that takes you aback and such is the case with Peter Criss' self-penned (with help from Larry "Ratso" Sloman) bio Makeup to Breakup. You don't have to get very far into the book to realize that Criss is going to leave everything on the table; in fact you don't even have to get to the first chapter. Criss tells a riveting story in the book's prologue about being down to his last $100K and sticking a .357 Magnum down his throat, ready to end it all as he watches what remains of his possessions get destroyed during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The thought of suicide is unimaginable to fans who think of Criss as a one-time multi-millionaire who wrote and sang KISS' biggest hit ever, "Beth." The first few chapters cover the drummer's youth, noting that drumming (on pots and pans and garbage can lids) started very early, and in the realm of "too much information" reveals that Criss peed (and worse) his pants on a regular basis for various reasons. The extreme candor and Criss' (probably Sloman's) way with storytelling makes Makeup to Breakup a page turner right to the end though, covering everything from broken marriages and a bout with breast cancer to substance abuse and rehab to other suicide near-misses. There's funny stuff presented here too; Criss indicates that fellow KISS member Ace Frehley "whacked off" constantly and in a moment that may or may not be tongue-in-cheek, Criss tells of how he refused to have sex with a girl he really wanted because he had shortly before had sex with a possibly diseased tramp, explaining that, after all, he "had class." Readers can make their own determination on that matter but there's little arguing that Makeup to Breakup itself is a class act.
The pundits that wrote KISS off as a cartoonish gimmick band some 35-years ago probably can't believe that the band is still going strong today with some 100 million in sales under their belts. Monster is supposed to be a return to the band's roots and an attempt is made to recapture that early sound throughout but there's nothing here that can touch oldies like "Strutter" or "Black Diamond" even though "Shout Mercy" and "Last Chance" come close. Mostly though, Monster sounds like a bad Van Halen album. If the band had come forth with this record as their first or second release they wouldn't be where they are today, makeup enhanced blood spitting and flame breathing band members or not. There are enough members of the rabid KISS Army out there to make Monster a success but for those looking for something gritty akin to "Deuce" or "Firehouse" --- forget it.
Battle of the Band: Peter Criss vs. KISS