Ace Frehley - Spaceman album review

While his guitar playing can still thrill, words fail former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley

Ace Frehley - Spaceman

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Ace Frehley - Spaceman

1. Without You I'm Nothing
2. Rockin' With the Boys
3. Your Wish Is My Command
4. Bronx Boy
5. Pursuit Of Rock and Roll
6. I Wanna Go Back
7. Mission To Mars
8. Off My Back
9. Quantum Flux

Based on the Spaceman sleeve, Ace ‘The Spaceman’ Frehley appears to be in no particular hurry. Shrink-wrapped in spandex, reclining on a silver throne, he’s every inch the coasting, royalty funded veteran. But the numbers tell a different story. Spaceman is the 67-year-old’s third solo album in four years, a hot streak that makes the Kiss mothership look positively sluggish (six years and counting since Monster). 

In fairness, Frehley isn’t exactly painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with these late-period solo releases. Apart from Quantum Flux, the album’s impressive prog-instrumental finale, Spaceman is route-one, no-frills, knock-it-out-andfuck-off-home rock’n’roll – and that’s (usually) no criticism. When Ace’s hooks, riffs and solos are on the money, he can still give you the old shivers. It’s frustrating, then, that his vocals and lyrics sometimes act like sandbags on songs that are straining for lift-off. 

There are strong moments here to sate the Kiss Army – and not just the rumble-and-slash opener Without You I’m Nothing, co-written with Gene Simmons over buried hatchets. Rockin’ With The Boys was written back in the 70s, and with its instantly familiar shout-it-back chorus you can imagine the Kiss line-up would kill to get their hands on it now. Your Wish Is My Command, another Simmons co-write, is a stack-heeled glitter-stomp, pairing Queen-worthy harmonies with Who-style windmilled chords. Bronx Boy might be the best thing here, with Frehley nodding to his early days running wild with an Irish street gang, over thrillingly feral guitars. 

On these songs and others, the only thing that’s really missing is a little more pizzazz at the microphone. As ever, Frehley sings decently, but his voice never quite turns the head like his roaring guitar playing, while his lyrics sometimes make Rock And Roll All Nite sound like Wordsworth. Take Pursuit Of Rock And Roll, a perfectly serviceable tune scuppered by a club-footed salute to Ace’s formative influences (‘Don’t need no rap or disco for eternity,’ he honks, ‘I love the Rolling Stones, those bad boys set me free!’). Then there’s Off My Back, its rousing chord sequence laid low by a volley of failed-relationship clunkers (‘You gotta understand our time is past/It’s time to separate and I’m talking fast’). 

Spaceman confirms beyond doubt that Frehley still has some cracking tunes up his sleeve. But perhaps this intergalactic voyager should slow down and chew the pencil a little longer.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.