Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Ace Frehley

Released 1978 on Casablanca
Reviewed by Cerberus, 09/03/2003ce

What?? That Ace Frehley?
Er yeah, that one. Space Ace himself.
But surely.... make up plastered, blood spitting, flamethrowing platformed retarded rock buffoons. I mean, KISS for fuck's sake!?
Yeah well!
For a start, the Kiss reanalysis is long overdue - but I aint going to go through that just now so you'll just have to trust me.
Anyway back to Mr Space. It's 1978 and amid widespread rumours that the 'hottest' band in the world (their words!) are not only losing the plot but close to breaking up, Kiss release four simultaneous solo albums which go someway to proving the critics point in. In otherwords, two are crap - Peter & Paul (two little dickybirds that fell off the wall big style with their albums) and one is mostly crap - Gene - the blood drooling 'Demon's album contains folkrock, pop & an cringing 'When You Wish Upon A Star' delivered with mock-Broadway bombast and not one ounce of irony.
But not Ace. Oh no, the acne scarred, shy one not only blows his employer's efforts way fucking out of the water but makes the best Glam-rock'n'roll album the Lou Reed couldn't manage to. Yeah, 'fraid this is the REAL Transformer, not the biscuit arsed, Bowie washed, wimp out that Lou 'Herion' Reed unashamedly vomited on our heads years earlier. Sorry Velvets fans (which by defenition means you should hate solo Lou anyway) but this is the space dog's bollocks. Even the first track rips off Vicious wholesale but is genuinly vicious and still glam-camp as hell. In fact and let's face it, not only is Ace the American hybrid of Ronson AND Ziggy but the missing link between Brian Jones & Will Sargeant - the enigmatic, spaced-out guitar hero it's okay to admire without being a noodling muso. AND like Jones & Sargeant, overshadowed by certain other egos/twats but secretly and clearly the fucking driving force behind his band's genious!
In fact, not only is Ace's the best of the four solo albums but unlike other members' seemingly misguided interpretations of trends (such as I Was Made For Loving You's innapropriate disco influence), Frehley seemed to have one well-informed and eager ear pressed to his home city's underground. Sonically speaking, there's a crunchyness and urgency to these tunes that seems to unfeasbly bridge the gap between Kiss's increasingly irrelevant kid-friendly glam-pop evolition and the freshness and vitality of the New York punk scene. I dunno perhaps its a garage bubblegum thang! Whatever, Ace 'Shock Me' Frehley suspected which direction his band should be taking - just like Keith Richards did when he stuck raw, dirty guitar all over Mick's similarly bland attempts at disco on Some Girls. In fact, I played bits of this album to a friend of mine who's really hung up on that CBGB's thing and he lapped it up, drooling and slavering. Of course, when I revealed the source he pretended not to like it anymore but too late! Lead on MacFuck!
But this ain't a Kiss album. and it certainly doesn't sound like any Kiss album. Although two blatant drug advertisments on side one - Snow Blind and Ozone, the former with slightly phased (and fazed) vocals and the latter with a loping stoned groove - are cunningly disguised as Kiss-suitable 'girl' songs, their origin is clear. This despite Ace's embarrassing 80's reemergance as a hairsprayed, acne scarred, Jon Bon Toss type with Frehley's Comet (uh!) and transparent claim that Rocket Ride was a pussy song! Yeah right, Fuck Off Ace, everyone knows what a druggy you were. (Look at his eyes on the cover for fuck's sake...yeah it's a painting but even so.....). That little snatch of backwards guitar on Speeding Back To My Baby an otherwise Mottesque glampunker reminds us that not only were you partial to a bit of Charlston but that you probably got beaten up at school for carrying Grateful Dead albums (and having really bad acne) when all your jock classmates were fingering the prom queen to boogie rock Canned Skynyrd shite.
Don't get me wrong though, side two starter New York Groove is pretty shitty but relatively tongue-in-cheek (unlike Gene's hamfisted attempts at eclection) and still a gas. Plus it's followed by I'm In Need Of Love, an almost space-rock effects laden repetition thing which drives right in and then fucks off before outstaying its welcome. This would have been a much better closer than the unnecessary Fractured Mirror, an uninspired guitar synth, work out that sounds like a bored Todd Rungdren instrumental and is really the only truly crap thing here.
So there it is - The Space Ace encapsulated.
Buy this record, throw away Transformer, The (back)Strokes and forget God Gave Rock and Roll To You - which of course he didn't!

Reviews Index