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Ace Frehley

Anomaly

(Bronx Born; US: 15 Sep 2009; UK: 15 Sep 2009)

Two decades since the release of his last album, Trouble Walkin’, Ace Frehley—it’s cute to know—still has a fondness for space-themed lyrics, painting himself as this otherworldly being beamed down from Planet Rock long after he stashed the greasepaint of his Kiss alter ego in the attic. While Ace’s guitar work has improved over the years, his singing still leaves much to be desired. Although his voice sounds the best it ever has (which isn’t saying much), Frehley owes thanks for the evolution of a dazzling array of pitch-shifting vocal modulation in the two decades since he last recorded.


Lyrically, however, Anomaly can get a little schticky. “Pain in the Neck” features legitimate kick-ass guitar work and kicky counter-melodies offset by clumsy, misogynistic lyrics pertaining to a live-in ball ‘n’ chain. On the flipside “A Little Below the Angels” turns into a public-service announcement from Frehley, as he discusses his struggles with alcohol, sobriety, and the spiritual direction his life path has taken. The song itself is good, but once again, the devil lies within the details, and Ace goes for broke in the poignancy department, taking a musical detour and talking to his daughter with angels before incorporating a chorus of little girls singing the refrain. It doesn’t have the desired effect that Ace probably set out to achieve.


Where Frehley plainly shines is on Anomaly‘s skilled instrumentals. “Genghis Khan” begins as an Eastern-flavored instrumental before turning into a chugging, electric stomp. He probably would have done better to leave it as a strictly instrumental piece rather than laying a disembodied chorus (featuring Meat Loaf’s daughter, Pearl Aday, on backing vocals) over it that crops up at inopportune moments. Make no bones about it, “Fractured Quantum” is great. Steel strings and classical arpeggios trail across the track, sounding almost like an electrified harpsichord as Ace’s signature, simplistic yet potent riffs burst through. It’s a wise choice to end the disc on such a high note and proves that Ace hasn’t lost his stride as a guitarist but rather has improved over his 20-year hiatus.

Lana Cooper has written various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2006. She's also written news stories for EDGE Media, a nationwide network devoted to LGBT news and issues. In 2013, she wrote her first novel, Bad Taste In Men, described as one part chick lit for tomboys and one part Freaks and Geeks for kids who came of age in the mid-'90s. She lives in Philadelphia and enjoys spending time with her family, reading comic books, and avoiding eye contact with strangers on public transportation. A graduate of Temple University, Cooper doesn't usually talk about herself in the first person, but makes an exception when writing an author bio.


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