Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
It’s often hard to look back at bands that have achieved worldwide blockbuster success, such as KISS had in their heyday, and think that for a short period of time they too were once just a band starting out. The beauty of their self-titled debut album, released in 1974, is that it does away with their hyperbolic theatrics and larger-than-life stage show and we get to listen to a band on its way to greatness. Even the album cover is somewhat understated. Sure, they have their trademark make-up on but the image has more in common with Meet the Beatles’ portraiture than trying to cash in on their live show personas.
By their own admission, this album sounds a little too pristine and clean from a production standpoint, and didn’t reflect the raucous bluster of their live shows, but what it does capture perfectly is their songwriting craft and ability to create career spanning hooks. In fact, 7 out of the 10 tracks went on to become mainstays of KISS live shows for over 40 years. Songs such as “Strutter,” “Nothin’ To Lose” and “Firehouse” still hold a cocksure swagger, while tracks like “Cold Gin,” “Deuce” and “100,000 Years” retain an undeniable energy to them.
Album closer “Black Diamond” is perhaps the true standout. Epic in its structure, it pushes the band forward toward their rock god destiny better than any other track on the album. It would still take KISS a few more releases before they found the success they craved, but this album shows that for all the stagecraft and theatrics, KISS were first and foremost a band that knew how to rock.