When he’s not inventing new and evil ways to make a quick buck, alleged musician Gene Simmons releases the occasional album. After all, it’s hard to maintain the illusion that one is a musician if one doesn’t make a record at least once in a while. Plus, there are a few thousand Kiss diehards out there who will lick up anything Simmons shucks. This week, it’s his second solo album — his first since 1978. With any luck, the blood-spitting bat-demon will wait another 26 years for the third. ***hole features a cast of characters so bizarre it makes a Robert Altman film look like a one-man play.
Nobody will be surprised to hear guest appearances from Kiss alum Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer, but a cowriting credit from Bob Dylan? Even Frank Zappa returns from the grave (alongside Dweezil and Moon Unit ) on a space oddity titled “Black Tongue.” To top it off, Simmons throws in a straight-faced cover of Prodigy’s technotronic tune “Firestarter.” Of course, you also get the requisite pile of steamy rockers, including panting gross-outs such as “Dog” and “Sweet and Dirty Love.” Simmons is subtle like that. Which is why there are also timely ditties such as “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (You deserve everything that you get/You’re guilty ’til you’re proved innocent) and the title track, a shockingly hummable slice of pop-punk bubblegum. If the idea is to present the man and his music, ***hole does a great job — it’s an audacious, mostly tuneless mess that wants nothing more than to take your money and get in your pants. At least Simmons is being true to himself. The real asshole is anyone who buys this piece of shit.