Personnel: Steve Whiteman (vocals); Brian Forsythe, Ronnie "10" Younkins (guitar); Donnie Purnell (bass guitar); Jimmy Chalfant (drums).
This 1981 album introduced the world to the tongue-in-cheek rock & roll style of Kix. Of all the bands to get lumped in under the "hair metal" tag, Kix was the one of the most unique and adventurous. In fact, the "hair metal" tag was unfair to the band since its pop-metal stylings drew as much inspiration from bubblegum pop and new wave as it did from hard rock. This impressive debut finds its one of a kind sound fully realized: "Heartbeat" welds a yearning pop melody straight out of a teen idol hit onto a bouncing, staccato new wave guitar riff worthy of the Cars, and "Contrary Mary" weds the bubblegum chant of the title to a guitar riff that sounds like the main lick from "Day Tripper" turned inside out. Other standout tracks include the cowbell-driven hormonal anthem "Love at First Sight" and "The Kid," a anti-brat revenge fantasy reminiscent of "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones. Each of these songs has a deliciously pop quality to their melodies and hooks, yet retain a heavy hard rock sound thanks to amped-up guitar riffs and pounding tempos. The one real downside of the album is that producer Tom Allom, best known for his work with Judas Priest, tries a little too hard to shoehorn the band into a hard rock style at times, resulting in a repetitive, no-frills production style that fails to live up to the ambitious genre bending of the songs. Despite this problem, the infectiousness of the material and the band's irrepressible good cheer shines through, making Kix well worth a spin for anyone who enjoys the lighter, poppier side of hard rock. ~ Donald A. Guarisco