Ace Frehley’s decision to sell the rights to his spaceman likeness to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in the 1980s illustrated both Simmons’ ruthless business acumen and Frehley’s myopic approach to his own financial security. But although Frehley may have sold the commercial rights to his own iconic image, he’s continued to wear his spaceman persona like a cherished badge.
Frehley’s latest solo album, Space Invader, makes plenty of the interstellar theme with which Frehley will forever be associated. The title track uses it as context for Frehley’s excursion into environmental politics; Past the Milky Way uses inter-galactic metaphor to describe a personal journey that seems every bit as confused as some of Frehley’s inebriated television commentary at the peak of his ‘70s Kiss fame. The Cold Gin-ish Inside the Vortex is on the edge of space; Starship is a meandering seven-minute wander through the fuzzy recesses of Frehley’s idiosyncratic existence.
There’s a lot of hirsute LA heavy rock, replete with enough Les Paul licks to feed any teenager’s rock’n’roll fantasy: Gimme a Feelin’ and I Wanna Hold You are pumped to 11; Change, Toys and What Every Girl Wants are half way between Hotter Than Hell and side four of Alive II.
On Reckless Frehley offers a sort-of-apology for his youthful missteps; the cover of Steve Miller’s The Joker has a whiff of dry humour, while Immortal Pleasures suggests all the self-abuse might just have been worth it. Gene and Paul may still be wringing every last cent out of Kiss, but Ace is the real survivor. Long live the Spaceman.