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CD review: Kix appease diehard fans with Rock Your Face Off

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Kix - Rock Your Face Off

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Thanks to the idiocy of narrow-minded music executives and the limited vision of rock radio, it took Baltimore’s Kix four albums before the band had its big breakthrough with 1988′s platinum success, Blow My Fuse. No sooner did Kix get a taste of long overdue recognition than a little band called Nirvana started a movement called grunge that all but obliterated feel good, party rock and roll. At its heart, that is what Kix is all about. Sonically they sound like the bastard lovechild of AC/DC and Slade, and their tongue-in-cheek, carefree rock and roll frivolity is of the instantly addictive variety.

Fast-forward some 20 years, and Kix is back with a new album, a fresh attitude, and same party and roll groove that has garnered them a massive and devout following. Rock Your Face Off marks the first time all members of the band have had a chance to write for the record. Once held hostage by former bassist, Donnie Purnell’s ego, now the remaining four original members, vocalist Steve Whiteman, drummer Jimmy Chalfant, and guitarists Brian Forsythe and Ronnie Younkins all had input on the new record and that sense of freedom resonates throughout the record. As an added bonus, bassist Mark Schenker, who has been with the band since its 2003 reunion, is a fantastic songwriter in his own right, and his presence is felt.

To give the band some outside perspective, yet help keep them rooted in their signature sound, Kix tapped long-time friend, songwriter and producer Taylor Rhodes to produce the album. Rhodes contributed to Blow My Fuse as well as writing for and producing the band’s 1991 follow-up, Hotwire.

The party starts with the rolling groove of “Wheels in Motion”, which instantly waves the flag on the Kix return to its indelible signature. This is followed by the addictive swagger of “You’re Gone” and the anthemic arena rocker, “Can’t Stop the Show”. Three songs in and its clear, the Kix album fans have long-awaited is here and it is everything they might have hoped for.

One can readily picture Whiteman spinning about the stage and enticing the crowd through the racy “Rollin’ in Honey” or the boogie and roll of the album’s title track.

Kix taps into its bluesier side for the gritty dust up, “All the Right Things”, and they toss in a fine emotive ballad with “Inside Outside Inn”. Both tracks help break up the record just enough to make it all fluid and exciting.

Ultimately, Rock Your Face Off is an album packed with raucous, up tempo, shake-your-ass crowd-pleasers. From the humorous and irreverent single, “Love Me with Your Top Down” to the edgy foot-tapper, “Mean Miss Adventure” to the cheeky audacity of “Tail on the Wag”, every track on this record feels like a favorite pair of old jeans you can’t wait to slip on and cut loose in.

Welcome back, Kix. You have been sorely missed.

Rating: 8.4/10

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