It was hard to like Unmasked, but, being an 11-year-old boy, who loved Kiss, I never doubted its awesomeness. Despite kids in school telling me Kiss sucked and, peculiarly, even the cover of this album telling me they stink (whose idea was that?) I knew in my heart of hearts that Kiss was the best.
In a stroke of marketing genius, this album teased the audience with the idea of finally seeing who was under these “masks” (which is weird since everyone knew they weren’t wearing masks, but whatever). There’s even a poster that came with my vinyl copy! Yahoo.
I just recently found out that “Is That You?” is a cover. I always liked the high-pitched part of the song (“you always get the boys you like”), although in retrospect it’s really not very good–simplistic in a way that Kiss songs weren’t but then became. I always joke about Kiss doing a tour and playing “Shandi.” It’s such a cheesy ballad and yet I think it’s really good (for a cheesy ballad–Paul sings this type of song so well). I constantly have the “there’s another mess I’ve got myself in” line in my head all the time.
I liked “What makes the World Go ‘Round” but even I can acknowledge that the song is pretty poor. “Tomorrow” sounds like another song off of Paul’s solo album and probably should have been a huge hit. In fact, they could have re-released it in the 80s and it would have fit right in with their non-makeup success–Paul’s soaring choruses are always a hit. “Easy as it Seems” is kind of the album encapsulated in one song–very sleek, very soft, lots of choruses vocals and really kind of bland. There’s even a wimpy keyboard solo (gasp!).
Ace was the star of Dynasty, and he gets three more songs on Unmasked. “Talk to Me” is one of his repetitive songs that drives me a bit nutty (never liked that “talk to me-e” part). It’s interesting how much Ace moved into prominence on these albums, especially since he was headed for the door soon. “Two Sides of the Coin,” is a decent rocker, but listen to those crazy synth drums during the instrumental break. “Torpedo Girl” is the most interesting track on the disc. It has the cool opening “man battle stations torpedo,” a really funky (!!) bass line from Gene (who knew he had that in him) and a cool weird riff at the opening. It’s then got a very catchy chorus (although honestly, “c’mon get your feet wet”?).
Gene has a bit more prominence here. “Naked City” has a pretty menacing riff to open with, but Gene turns in one of his more melodic turns (with some pretty high notes in the chorus)! The solo, while not blistering, is pretty great (as with Dynasty, the solos are too short). “She’s So European” aside from being a really stupid title and lyric is the song that really puts this album over the edge–the twinkly keyboards, the “you ought to see her” falsetto, and, basically the same chord structure as “Living in Sin” on the verses. Gene ends the disc with “You’re All That I Want,” a rather uninspired song that reminds me of the songs on side 4 of Alive II.
You’ll notice that Peter doesn’t get a vocal turn on this album. In fact, he didn’t play anything on it at all (Anton Fig on drums again), but he was contractually obligated to appear on the cover (perhaps that’s why they did a cartoon).
No matter how much I listened to it back then, I can still admit that this album isn’t really very good. Although interestingly, some of the songs and sonmg styles foreshadow the kind of music they’d play on Lick It Up: simple songs without a lot of substance, and that album was huge!
[READ: November 2, 2011] “Wildwood”
After reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” in the New Yorker, I saw that they had also published Lola’s “Wildwood” adventure as an excerpt from Oscar Wao the novel.
As you can see, this excerpt came out around the same time as the novel. And as far as I can tell, this excerpt is exactly the same as the novel except for one line that was in the excerpt but not in the novel (the part in italics):
Hija de Liborio she called you after you picked your tia’s winning numbers for her and when you guessed correctly how old to the day she’d been when she left home for the U.S. (a fact she’d never told anyone). You assumed….
The only other noticeable difference is that the first section of this excerpt is not really separated from the rest of it. The first section is told in the second person, while the rest is in the first person. In the novel, the second person section is set off by itself, so it’s a little less jarring when you jump to first person, but I think any reader could cope with that pretty well.
This except concerns Oscar’s sister Lola (before she met the narrator of Oscar Wao). It opens with Lola’s mother asking her to feel a lump in her breast, a moment that Lola felt would change both of their lives for the worst.
But things didn’t change because her mother got sick, they changed because Lola got sick of doing everything her mother said. She was tired of being an obedient daughter. After doing everything in her power to get thrown out (cutting off her hair, staying out all night, saying horrible things to her mother), she finally decided to run away. To Wildwood, NJ.
She moved in with her loser boyfriend and spent several excruciating months there being Happy, no matter how miserable she was. When she finally couldn’t take it anymore, she reached out for help and for her troubles, she was shipped of the Dominican Republic.
And the banishment worked wonders for her. She settled down, went to school, joined the track team (if her legs and ass were fine before, imagine what they were like after months of racing) and she began dating a nice guy.
But what happens when that feeling comes back? That feeling that says something is about to change?
As a short story (which New Yorker excerpts often seem like they are meant to be) this is kind of disappointing because it ends without revealing the big change. However, since this is part of a greater story, it’s fine as a teaser for what you have to look forward to.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is about Oscar, but this excerpt reminds us that the book is about more than just Oscar, it’s about his family. And it’s about how powerful women can impact a family.
So, don’t bother tracking down this excerpt, just read the novel.