Let me start by saying this: I do NOT hate Ace Frehley, nor do I have some issue with him. As long as he’s putting out quality tunes and not trying to rewrite history/blame everyone else for his problems I will buy records and see him live. Actually, my buddy Scott and I caught him on the Anomaly tour in 2010 and the show was fantastic from start to finish, as was the album. I even collected my paper route money a day early just so I could rustle up the $6 to go buy Frehley’s Comet when it came out back in the day, so no. No hatred here. At the same time I don’t listen to Ace’s music with blinders on and treat everything he does like it’s the greatest thing since sliced. In fact, I‘d say his musical output has ranged from outstanding to downright unlistenable. So where, oh where does new album Space Invader (August 19 via eOne Music) fall? Well…it’s more good than bad, with hits and misses, but mostly hits.
The record starts off with the title track, and while it’s not a bad song, it just doesn’t feel like an opener to me. Things really get going however with “Gimme a Feelin’” and “I Wanna Hold You”, two songs that show Space Ace remaining true to form with rockin’ riffs and smokin’ solos. “Toys” is a song with a bit more of a grind to it and the guitars are off the charts; this is vintage Ace all the way! And speaking of, there’s more of an acoustic flair to “Immortal Pleasures” that makes it feel like something off the 1978 solo record as well. Damn if that chorus doesn’t swim around in your head for a while after, too. The running space theme continues with “Inside the Vortex” while “What Every Girl Wants” turns up the jets again and manages to inject some pop sensibilities into an already great rock song.
I have to say that vocally Ace sounds terrific. Sobriety really seems to agree with him, as was evidenced on Anomaly as well. And on “Past the Milky Way” his voice takes center stage for a slower number, along with a rolling, winding solo going throughout. We kick back into high gear with “Reckless” which guitar-wise is solid, but the hook just wasn’t there for me. I also fail to see the need for a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” but hey, he’s Ace Frehley. He can do whatever he wants. Closing out this disc, like the others, is the instrumental; this time it’s “Starship” clocking in at seven minutes. And it’s exactly what you’d expect, with a build-up that starts kind of soft before he lets fly with an outstanding solo and then a nice watery guitar lick to bring us home.
I gotta admit, it took a lot of listens for Space Invader to grow on me. But with each one I found something I hadn’t noticed before, and now, more than ten spins in, there’s more that I liked than I didn’t. It’s a solid rock record with only a few I didn’t care for, and the mix and production are stellar. And of course I’ll be there when Ace hits Dallas, because his live show is just amazing, he’s got a crackerjack band behind him, and I always have a blast.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “What Every Girl Wants”, “Past the Milky Way”, “I Wanna Hold You”, “Toys”, “Immortal Pleasures”