Kix - Rock Your Face Off

What was the best hair-metal band of the ’80s? Guns N’ Roses is the obvious answer, and Axl Rose did have some impressively big hair in the “Welcome To The Jungle” video, but that band (smartly) distanced themselves from their Sunset Strip peers as quickly as they possibly could, effectively and consciously transcending the genre that birthed them. Def Leppard, similarly, flew the hair-metal flag at a few key moments, and they released at least two absolutely bulletproof albums in the ’80s. But Def Lep were hair-metal the same way the early Killers were indie rock; their association with the genre was glancing at best and opportunistic at worst. Mötley Crüe and Poison and Twisted Sister and Skid Row all had classics, as did lesser-knowns like Faster Pussycat and Girlschool. But none of them was as good as Kix. There’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of Kix, but they are my pick for best hair-metal band ever, and it’s not close.

Historically, Kix were a total footnote, and their one real national hit, “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” was a B-level power ballad, one that you probably don’t remember if you’re not at least 30. At their commercial peak, they were opening for Ratt on tour. But in their hometown (which, not coincidentally, is also my hometown), Kix were total gods, rulers of the legendary downtown Baltimore white-trash rock club Hammerjack’s. Throughout my childhood, their horny rave-ups stayed in heavy rotation on local radio: “Cold Shower,” “Girl Money.” The band’s virtues were all very much hair-metal virtues: Their gleaming hooks, their headlong momentum, their absolute shamelessness when it came to barely-veiled sex metaphors. Frontman Steve Whiteman had a strangulated yelp that was obviously descended directly from that of original AC/DC howler Bon Scott, but he was also capable of carrying huge melodies, especially when the rest of the band joined him on backup harmonies, and his endless trying-to-get-laid monologue on the first-album track “Yeah Yeah Yeah” didn’t stop being funny when he embellished on it, David Lee Roth-style, during live shows. But when Whiteman dialed back the schtick, you could hear a ridiculously sharp new-wave tunefulness in the band’s compositions; at their best, they were the closest thing to the Cars that glam-metal had going for it. Chuck Eddy, the first person who hired me to write about music, wrote that the band’s self-titled 1981 debut was the second-best heavy metal album of all time in his 1998 book Stairway To Hell. There’s a lot of willful contrarianism in that book, and metalheads love to scoff at it. But if you listen to that self-titled album, or any of the four that followed it, you’ll hear a band absolutely in control of its own gifts, completely nailing everything they set out to do. This is all a long way of saying that Kix’s new reunion album Rock Your Face Off, the band’s first effort in 19 years, is a total blast, and other than Spoon’s They Want My Soul (which I already wrote about here), it’s the album you need to hear most this week.

Now: I realize that this album, and this band, are a tough sell on this particular website. For all the solid-gold jukebox classics the genre produced, indie types are still apt to look at ’80s glam metal as a total joke, as the sort of major-label foofery that Nirvana washed away like a cold rain. But there was nothing prefabricated about Kix. They were not an industry band. Baltimore is a grizzled working-class town with a pretty significant white-trash near-hillbilly population, and that was completely Kix’s audience. They made music completely suited for getting drunk and blowing off steam, at least in part because it was music about getting drunk and blowing off steam; it was music that spoke to its audience as directly and unpretentiously as, say, the Circle Jerks spoke to pissed-off California teenagers. And within that genre, Kix found space for joy and playfulness and craftsmanship. Their persona was cartoonish devil-may-care Bugs Bunny shit, but their songwriting level was, and is, way beyond what you’ll hear on a typical indie rock record. When I hear a song like “Cold Shower,” I hear as many ideas at work as I do on, I don’t know, the last MGMT album, with the crucial distinction that Kix turned those ideas into breezy, accessible anthems rather than up-its-own-butt silliness.

By all rights, Rock Your Face Off should not be a good album — at least not any more than, say a new Trixter album should be. Kix have been reunited for a few years now, but they’ve been playing the lower tiers of the metal-reunion circuit, hitting on the smaller stages of things like the Rocklahoma festival. They’re working without founding member Donnie Purnell, who wrote many of their best songs. Perhaps more to the point, they’re the type of band capable of naming an album Rock Your Face Off, and doing it without any detectable trace of irony. The album’s first single is called “Love Me With Your Top Down.” Its final song is called “Rock & Roll Showdown,” and it’s about going to a rock and roll showdown. There are love songs, but they’re mixed in indiscriminately with the fuck-everything-that-moves songs. The production is clean and loud and hyper-compressed, and nobody in the band has any interest in incorporating any musical influences from after, say, 1990. Wheedly guitar solos abound. This should be total “where are they now” sideshow material.

Instead, Kix have made an album with all the spirit and joy and craftsmanship that they always brought, an album with a hooks-per-minute ratio enough to grab you even if you never heard of the before reading this review. The band plays with a sense of rhythmic push-pull that reminds you that people used to dance to this stuff, and that they still could, if they were so inclined. “Rollin’ In Honey,” about having so much sex that you feel like you’re drowning, rides cowbells and backing-vocal chants that push the song close to bubblegum-disco territory. “All The Right Things,” which has a line about feeling your jeans getting tighter, starts with a blooz-guitar rumble that turns into fast-and-savage New York Dolls riffage. “Dirty Girls” has the sort of chorus that seems built for the hair-metal strip clubs that presumably no longer exist. “Mean Miss Adventure” is rockabilly filtered through early-’70s Ted Nugent and early-’80s Van Halen. Nearly every song has oh whoa whoa backing vocals that will get stuck in your head for hours. All of it is delirious and catchy, and it proudly flaunts its out-of-fashion party-hard spirit. It’s glittering trash, made by guys in their fifties who probably hold down day jobs these days and who have no business making this vigorous and fun anymore. Its mere existence is an inspirational thing, and it’s a reminder that sometimes exploring new musical space isn’t the most important thing. Sometimes, songs are the most important thing.

Rock Your Face Off is out now on Loud & Proud.

Other albums of note out today:

• Spoon’s commandingly catchy They Want My Soul.
• Twin Peaks’ scrappy garage rocker Wild Onion.
• The Rosebuds grand, shiny, Justin Vernon-co-produced Sand + Silence.
• Adult Jazz’s way-out art-pop debut Gist Is.
• Bear In Heaven’s spaced-out synth-rocker Time Is Over One Day Old.
• Cold World’s rap-heavy hardcore frenzy How The Gods Chill.
• Chrome’s reunion effort Feel It Like A Scientist.
• Veteran instrumental rockers Tuatara’s mood piece Underworld.
• Naomi Punk’s jittery, unstable Television Man.
• Lost Boy ?’s fired-up indie-pop charmer Canned.
• Katie Kate’s DIY pop debut Nation.
• Dikembe’s punchy, melodic, generally emo Mediumship.
• Frightened Rabbit frontman John Hutchinson’s self-titled solo debut under his Owl John alias.
• Columns’ mathy hardcore attack Please Explode.
• Spider Bags’ lo-fi rocker Frozen Letter.
• Bölzer’s Soma EP.
• Lil Silva’s Mabel EP.
• Divorcee’s self-titled debut EP.
• Roses’ Dreamlover EP.
• Lusine’s Arterial EP.
• Eliot Sumner’s Information EP.
• Ladada’s self-titled debut EP.

Comments (122)
  1. This should be fun…

  2. Hmmm nah, still should be Spoon.

  3. Hahahaha.

    What the hell?

  4. “There’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of Kix…”

    On the contrary, everyone and their mom knows about Kix!

    There’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of Kix

  5. Besides Spoon, I can’t stop listening to Adult Jazz this week. Add Bear in Heaven into the mix, and I’m too busy to listen to anything else. Those three are all varying levels of killer.

  6. I probably hate hair metal less than most people here, and even I have to say this is ridiculous. I gave “Love Me With Your Top Down” a shot, and this definitely smacks of trolling. This is just paint-by-numbers cock rock.

    And it isn’t even a slow week! A better pick would have been End Times Undone by David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights. The man is an unsung legend, even in his native New Zealand. In fact, every Kiwi I have ever met has never heard of the Clean, the Chills, the Bats, or any other of those great New Zealand indie bands from the late 80s/early 90s. I have only spun the record a couple times so far, but it’s as good as anything the man has ever done, and a million times better than anything Kix has ever done.

  7. So we got Spoon, Twin Peaks, The Rosebuds, and Adult Jazz, yet Kix is the best this week had to offer?
    I apprecitate the thought, but no thank you. If I really want hair metal I’ll just turn on the radio.

    • Ah, yes, I hate how the airwaves are clogged with hair metal! CHECKS DATE. Er, what are you talking about?

      • I stopped listening to radio about the same time as dj nocrisp. Are you saying Ratt no longer rules the airwaves? For shame.

      • I could swear that one Fancy song I’ve been hearing all over was a Motley Crue.

        But for real, where I’m at there’s only country and classic rock stations and I swear to god 1/3 songs on classic rock is a hair metal song.

  8. Mozart’s Sister’s debut album Being is out today and is what I’ve had on repeat lately. Really good stuff.

    • Dude, I totally agree. The 1-2 punch that was “Mozart’s Sister” + “Don’t Leave It to Me” on the Hello EP made me a fan and I just about shat myself when I discovered she’d dropped an LP without me even realizing it. I’m a little puzzled by the omission of “Mozart’s Sister” from the tracklist but the new songs more than make up for it. The production on this album is delicious.

    • They’re no Shakespeare’s Sister.

  9. I watched the lyric video, and got to “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK SEAT” before I gave up and went back to listening to Spoon and Adult Jazz. But it’s nice to hear that Hair Metal still uses a constant barrage of euphemisms.

  10. Comparing this music to early 80s Van Halen is an insult to early 80s Van Halen.

  11. And here I thought this was some hip new Indie band that named themselves after the breakfast cereal.

  12. I’m probably not going to give this Kix album a chance, so this is a little unfair, Twin Peaks, Bear In Heaven, and Adult Jazz are much worthier contenders than hair metal. And that Spoon album really might be worthy of both PME and AOTW. So what if I’m a little bit of a Spoon fanboy.

  13. I feel like I just got Rick Rolled

  14. Seriously, Kix? I read the write-up and still have to say….seriously, Kix? This is third (maybe fourth tier) of what might amount to be the most embarassing genre in the history of rock. I’ve got some 80′s music that I secretly love and give huge ups to Tom for going to bat for his local hero’s. But …..seriously, Kix?

  15. uh. my roommate and i are confused here. what is this

  16. Hey guys! I haven’t been around much this summer, but I’m back! I headed straight to the AotW comment section to re-introduce myself. I haven’t even read the article yet, but I haven’t heard of the band, so I’m super excited about discovering some great new underground act. I’ll be right back with my thoughts!

  17. I may have misread the first few words of this headline as Album of the Week: Kid Rock… anyone else? no? ok

  18. I, for one, enjoyed this thing. It’s what it is, a fun song, no pretentions, balls to the wall. As you said in the article, that’s unpopular these days, especially in sites like this one, but hey, sometimes you have to stick to your guns to the very end. This music might not be transcendent, but I like the fact that it exists, and it doesn’t offend my ears in the slightest.

    I also respect that you had the guts to try and promote it here. Too bad most commenters love their high horses to death when it comes to this genre.

  19. “I’m diving in deep, and I’m leading with my face.”


    But seriously, I’m not going to give this album a listen, so it could be really good with a really bad song, but…. god this song is bad. Like “bar-band-at-the-local-bro-bar” bad.

  20. ……..


  21. Breihan is trolling us, guys…

    • He’s not trolling us. He really just has god awful taste in music. Take a look at his best songs of 2008 list he did when he was at Pitchfork below:

      >> Tom Breihan
      1. Young Jeezy [ft. Kanye West]: Put On
      2. Hold Steady: Lord, I’m Discouraged
      3. Lil Wayne: You Ain’t Got Nuthin
      4. Jordin Sparks [ft. Chris Brown]: No Air
      5. Gary Allan: Watching Airplanes
      6. B.O.B.: Generation Lost
      7. Mary J. Blige: Just Fine (Treat Em Right Remix)
      8. Cut Copy: Hearts on Fire
      9. Pink: So What
      10. Big Boi [ft. Raekwon and Andre 3000]: Royal Flush
      11. Trace Adkins: You’re Gonna Miss This
      12. Gaslight Anthem: That ’59 Sound
      13. Vampire Weekend: A-Punk
      14. Sugarland: Already Gone
      15. Lil Wayne: A Milli
      16. Hotstylz: Lookin’ Boy
      17. B.O.B.: Fuck You
      18. T.I.: No Matter What
      19. Taylor Swift: Love Story
      20. Hercules & Love Affair: Blind
      21. Usher [ft. Young Jeezy]: Love In This Club
      22. Raconteurs: Old Enough
      23. Kanye West: Love Lockdown
      24. Santogold: Lights Out
      25. Bun B: Damn I’m Cold

      • Most of those songs are really good. Though I do think the order is whack: “Put On” is better than “A Milli”? Really, Tom?! But yeah if you look back at 2008, I think it’s fair to say that Lil Wayne, Cut Copy, Vampire Weekend, Taylor Swift, Kanye, and Santogold were all making a huge impact, and in terms of being a music writer its really not about having “good taste” (defined, in 2008, mostly by how many superlatives you lobbed at fucking Fleet Foxes) and is more about being able to present your perspective in well-formed and interesting ways. There are plenty of nerds on the internet who can tell you how great Radiohead is, but it gets boring to read that all the time.

      • the only aggravating thing about this list is that he chose “lord, i’m discouraged” as the standout from stay positive

    • I dunno. Optimistically, if I were a writer for a middle heavyweight music journalism site, I think I’d have dementia after about five years. If I were to listen to every fucking thing that comes out for a decade or more in an age where it seems the music coming out any given week is twice the amount that came out the previous week, I can understand a scenario where a hair-metal throwback band with absolutely nothing new to offer might strike a (power)chord with me. I’m luckily not a music journalist. I have the luxury of getting hung up on my favorite band for months on end, and then have the luxury of relistening to my favorite albums months/years later for months on end without freaking out about WHAT’S NEXT, so I have the luxury of complaining in a comment section that this particular music sucks, because it really, really does.

  22. I commend this pick, way to mix it up Stereogum! Cold blood was always my personal favorite Kix song.

  23. I love it! Anyone who tries to deny their past(like most writers) is full of sh*t. I’ll take a hair metal band from the mid to late 80′s over f*cking Passion Pit(or any other supposed indie hacks) any day! At least they can play their instruments.

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  25. The only thing that bugs me about the PE/AOTW difference is that the main discussion about Spoon ended last week, but I didn’t really get into the album until yesterday since that’s the day it was released ‘officially’ (on Spotify).

    SO some (delayed) Spoon thoughts:
    - This album is so great, instantly in the running for my favorite album of the year
    - It works better as a unit .. I like the singles more in context
    - Its run time of 37 minutes feels ruthlessly efficient, lightweight, and perfect
    - Agree with the PE, Eno’s drumming is the heartbeat of this record. The beats are deceptively simple and he just crushes it on every song. Harp solos are nice, but a great drum part is the truth.

  26. I don’t think Tom is really trolling, but what bothers me about Tom is that on one side, he’s very adamant about broad tastes and democracy and pop, but on the other side he can be the most snide writer on this site, especially about particular bands perceived as terrible or uncool- and maybe these bands are terrible or uncool, but if there is a terrible or uncool band that Tom favors, it becomes “we need to agree that you are all snobs because you can’t admit how awesome x or y is”. The other thing is how sloppy he can be- like when he berates Jessie J as being terrible or whatever, and not heard of since the terrible “Price Tag” (I agree it was terrible) but forgets that “Domino” was a top 10 hit, and that probably half the board couldn’t tell the difference of how Domino was somehow terrible, but some other pop turd or gem was way better. I feel like Tom can do a better job convincing people what might be good about something poppy, and also spend less time casually slagging bands that are in the exact same genre of the random stuff he champions.

    • Agree. Saying ” their songwriting level was, and is, way beyond what you’ll hear on a typical indie rock record” just feels like a pointless dig at indie rock. I’d say the “typical” record of any genre has two or three memorable songs and a lot of filler, and I don’t consider indie rock bands do be any better or worse at songwriting than any other kind of artist. Of course, if “Love Me With Your Top Down” is any indicator, I suspect Tom and I disagree sharply on what constitutes good songwriting to begin with.

    • On a similar note regarding snideness- I don’t like how there’s this whole poptimist movement and all the indie sites are like “like whatever you want! everything is cool!”, but then wait, you’re not allowed to like modern rock, but then wait, unless it’s ironic 80s glam metal, then you can like it. I have no idea why Limp Bizkit hasn’t become a retro-hip icon yet, they’d be the perfect poster boys.

  27. Now that I have listened to the song, I kind of wish the guy from Slaughter were singing it, or Bon Scott. Production should be less slick.

  28. Let’s give Tom the benefit of the doubt here. One of his favorite bands from an earlier portion of his life still tugs at his heartstrings. It happens to all of us. I watched Rocky I last night and had to stifle a tear at the end. Watching it took me back to my 11th birthday when my folks took me and all my buddies to see it (I was the coolest kid on Earth……for at least that one day)

    So it’s not his fault that this band is nothing more than a footnote in the most embarassing genre rock has ever produced.

  29. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Spoon have been a band for 20 years, but I’m going to wager math isn’t your strong suit.

      • “(that nobody else but you idiots have ever even heard of)”

        let’s just see if Kix outsells Spoon this week… somehow I doubt it! to be fair a lot of the Stereogum house favorites are obscure, but Spoon is one of the best-known and most commercially successful indie acts. Kix has never had an album in the Top 40, something Spoon has done twice, and that’s coming from lil’ ol’ Merge, not the Warner-Atlantic behemoth.

        not to say that popular or high-selling albums are the best, but acting like Spoon is some obscure, flash-in-the-pan band while championing a washed-up, third-tier hair metal band is kind of absurd. but then again, you have a FB avatar that basically screams “I am a racist and I hate myself”

    • Oh, you’re one of those “Our era’s music is better than your era’s music” guys. “Something something get off my lawn.”

      Stereogum is slowly becoming a YouTube comments section.

    • Please, don’t ever leave this site. You’re like a real-life RubJon!

    • Also, tell us your opinion on Nirvana!

      • shhhhhhh….don’t mention the “N” word around buttrock fans. That had to hurt when Nirvana (ouch) wiped that crap off the face of the planet.

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  31. by the way, making the “top 40″ is a joke. lmao that just proves it’s trendy bullshit corporate america is cramming down everyone’s throats and all you sheep are buying into it. lol

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  33. buckcherry is one of the few bands these days worth a damn. i’ve seen them live.

  34. crazy bitch is a jam. lol

  35. Garrett White was sent to Stereogum by Jesus. I cannot concur with guiriguiri more strongly. Please don’t ever leave us GW. You can be our “house hair metal” guy. We can look forward to you chiming in on just about any article SG throws up…

    SG “Grimes new single hints at krautrock”
    GW “WTF is a Grimes? And why do they like hard hot dogs? Cinderalla RAWKS”

    SG “Perfume Genius to tour with Vienna Boys Choir”
    FW “Who gives a shiiiiit about that faggy crap? Tesla kick FOCKING ARSE”

    Elaborate troll or just honest to Christ Butt Rocker from hell…..GW, you are awesome.

  36. you truly are morons if you think the redskins are a racist thing. now you wanna open on all fronts? guess it goes hand in hand with that crap you listen to. par for the course i guess. i just happen to have native american bloodlines, commanche to be exact. it’s not the least bit offensive or racist. they’ve been the redskins for 80 fuckin’ years and it wasn’t until some bullshit “white” politicians with nothing better to do decided to make a bitch about it that it suddenly became an issue. people need to focus on real problems and stop going out of their way to find something to cry about. people these days are a bunch of sissy ass bleeding heart politically correct assholes.

  37. This is okay for a latter-day effort from an eighties hard rock band, but it ain’t exactly revelatory.

    Also, if you want to talk quality bands from that era, you really were barking up all the wrong trees with your intro (aside from, obviously, G’n R and maybe Skid Row). It reads like someone making a list of favorite “grunge” bands and populating it with 7Mary3 and Bush. Also Def Leppard came out of NWOBHM and did their best work before nearly all of those bands existed.

    Whitesnake (the souped-up mach II version), Blue Murder, Dokken, Tesla, White Lion, Cinderella; that’s where it’s at!

  38. roflmao this fool wants to talk about my nostalgia with his receding hairline and 1950′s looking glasses and graying beard. bet i’m older that you are but you look 15 years older than me. and where the fuck do you get racist you dumb mother fucker?? lmfao whatever douche bag. some people are just plain stupid.

    • yes. yes they are.

    • “and where the fuck do you get racist you dumb mother fucker??”

      I never said you were racist, but good for you for figuring out I was implying it. I said you were “nostalgic for slavery” because of all of your confederate flag bullshit.

      Also, my beard isn’t graying. Those are blonde hairs.

      Also, yes, my hairline is receding.

      Also, calling a football team the “Redskins” is racist as fuck. It doesn’t matter how long that team name has been around. If there was a team called the “Blackskins” it would be so, so fucked up. The only reason keeping the “Redskins” name alive is even an option is because we basically killed all of the “redskins” during a holocaust no one wants to talk about, and there aren’t enough of them alive to protest the use of that name.

    • Also, learn how to use the “Reply” button.

      Sorry. I just realized you might be too inbred to understand what that means.

  39. Now we’re cooking with gas!! GW, the ball is in your court. You gonna let NC talk atcha like that?


  40. Love the shout out to Hammerjacks! My dad worked at the original Hammerjacks.

  41. this thread should win a pulitzer

    • i’m so fucking happy

      • Right?!!!? Couldn’t this one and the Kid Rock and the Glass Dildo threads be permanently put up in the upper right hand corner of the Stereogum site? I swear to Gawd if Garret White never comes back to SG it’ll be a shame. That dude killed it on this thread.

  42. I am from Baltimore (hometown of Kix). I went to Hammerjacks back in the day. And I am a Kix fan. I can say that Kix was very popular locally in the 80s. Now they mostly do reunion shows. Kix was always a fun rock and roll band that started in the late 70′s and gained some national attention with a ballad. Are they cock-rock hair metal? To me they are just a rock and roll band. But they are fun and a great live band. There is nothing better than a crowd of Kix fans. I would also say that for me listening to them certainly reminds me of my youth. Back when everything was easier, fewer bills, no mortgage and still living with my parents who are now passed away. BuckCherry…I see no difference between Buck Cherry and Kix except that Kix never used profanity on their records. Buck Cherry has a song called To Drunk To F*CK. Instead of that, Kix simply came up with euphemisms. Now Kix has a song called Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (Don’t tell me no tell me Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) So its all rock and roll to me folks. Now Rock Your Face Off: Not a bad record but not their strongest effort either. Heavy AC/DC influences as always. 1-10? I give it a 7 or an 8.

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