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Forgotten Hard Rock Albums: Kix, "Midnite Dynamite" (1985)
Kix - "Midnite Dynamite" (Atlantic Records, 1985)
Some guys -- or in this case, some bands -- have all the luck, and for the bulk of their career, the hard rockers in Kix simply couldn't catch a break. The Maryland natives cultivated a devoted fanbase in their home area as well as a strong cult following up and down the East Coast but it never translated into long term mainstream success, despite a series of strong album releases and a reputation as one of the best live bands in the business. This writer can attest to their live prowess, having seen them at least a half dozen times back in the late '80s/early '90s, and they never put on a bad show. Showering their audience in glitter, confetti, and balloons, a Kix gig is like going to the circus...or a New Year's Eve party with a really kick-ass soundtrack!) Kix's third album, Midnite Dynamite, captured the self-proclaimed "Dirty Boys of the Underground" at their peak and is still required hair-metal listening in some circles. So why should you give this one a spin? Read on.
A Brief History...
Kix was formed in the late 1970s by bassist/songwriter Donnie Purnell and the guitar team of Ronnie "10/10" Younkins and Brian "Damage" Forsythe. Originally known as "Shooze" and briefly as "Generator" before deciding on the band name "Kix," the band added charismatic West Virginia native Steve Whiteman as lead vocalist and soon became one of Maryland's top drawing cover bands. Following several years of grueling roadwork, Kix inked a deal with Atlantic Records and released their self titled debut album in 1981. Kix was an enjoyably catchy, if under-produced, power pop/rock effort with strong similarities to classic Cheap Trick. The album featured such live set mainstays as "Poison," "The Itch" and the show-stopper "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," and though it was warmly received by their fan base it was unsuccessful at reaching a wide audience. 1983's sophomore release, Cool Kids, found the band adding a slicker, new-wave edge to their hard rock sound in an attempt to court commercial radio airplay. Despite such strong tracks as the heavy-duty "Restless Blood" and the acoustic ballad "For Shame," Cool Kids fared even worse than the debut (only managing to reach a position of #177 on Billboard), prompting the band to toughen up their sound for album #3, Midnite Dynamite, released in 1985.
Produced by Beau Hill, who had recently worked on Ratt's multi-platinum Out of the Cellar, Midnite Dynamite was obviously intended as Kix's 'shot for the top' album. The band came to the table with their best batch of songs yet, and Hill's slick-yet-punchy production job gave them a most welcome metallic "crunch" that was missing from the earlier pair of discs. Midnite Dynamite remains the best sounding album of Kix's career. The title track which kicks off the record builds around a muscular guitar riff that immediately lets you know that the band weren't fooling around, they were here to cause severe damage to your hearing! Other highlights include the gritty "Layin' Rubber," the uber-catchy "Scarlet Fever," the hard hitting ballad "Walkin' Away" and the bass-heavy "Cold Shower." The track "Bang Bang (Balls of Fire)" was co-written by a then-unknown Kip Winger, who would go on to major success with his own band just a few years later. When Midnite Dynamite was released in August of 1985, it certainly seemed that Kix were packing enough firepower to take their place in the hard-rock elite alongside Ratt, Dokken, and the rest of the so-called "Hair Bands" that were on the rise at the time.
So What Happened?
Unfortunately for Kix, Midnite Dynamite never caught fire the way it should have. Though it did achieve their highest chart position yet - #60 on Billboard - MTV only gave minimal airplay to their video for "Cold Shower" and by all accounts, Atlantic Records provided almost no promotional push for the album. Despite relentless touring on their own throughout the U.S. club scene, Kix were never picked for an opening slot with a bigger band that might have increased their profile. Once again, things had come up snake-eyes for the "God d*mn Kix band."
"Don't Close Your Eyes" (1988)
Happily, success finally smiled on Kix three years later when they hit platinum on their fourth album. 1988's Blow My Fuse was released at the height of the Hair Metal explosion and the band took full advantage of their increased visibility. Fueled by the hit power ballad "Don't Close Your Eyes" (which hit #11 on Billboard's singles chart) and the hard rockin' single "Cold Blood," Blow My Fuse is an excellent collection of songs that's almost on par with Midnite Dynamite, though in this writer's opinion it's hampered slightly by the muffled production job of Tom Werman and Duane Baron. Either way, it was nice to see these guys enjoying some time in the spotlight after so many years of slugging it out. On 1989's Blow My Fuse: The Videos VHS compilation, Steve Whiteman sums up the band's Blow My Fuse experience by telling viewers, "You've made this a very good year for us... and it's about goddamn TIME!"
Naturally, the ride didn't last forever. By the time Kix released their fifth album, 1991's excellent Hot Wire, the world was in Nirvana mode and most fans had tuned out, so record sales were sluggish. Undaunted, Kix closed out their contract with Atlantic Records by releasing 1993's Live album (legend has it the band wanted to sarcastically title the disc Contractual Obligation Live) and then signed with retro-rock specialty label CMC International Records for their underrated 1995 swan-song Show Business before going their separate ways.
After the breakup of Kix, Steve Whiteman formed a new band called Funny Money, which carried on Kix's hard-rock sound. Funny Money independently released four studio albums and a live disc, the most recent being 2006's Stick It! Kix drummer Jimmy "Chocolate" Chalfant joined Whiteman's combo in the early '00s, while guitarist Brian "Damage" Forsythe released several solo projects and eventually joined cult AC/DC clones Rhino Bucket. Due to massive fan demand, the "classic" lineup of Kix got back together in 2003 (minus bassist/songwriter Donnie Purnell) for a series of reunion concerts and since then they've become a regular fixture on the retro-rock tour circuit, with Funny Money bassist Mark Schenker taking over Purnell's slot.
A new Kix concert CD/DVD combo package entitled Live In Baltimore appeared in September 2012 through the Italian-based melodic rock label Frontiers Records (a label that is also home to such '80s rock faves as Stryper, Great White, Trixter, Journey, and Triumph, to name just a few), and they followed it up with Rock Your Face Off - the first Kix studio album since 1995's Show Business - via Loud & Proud Records in August 2014. It looks like the Dirty Boys of the Underground are in the midst of a major comeback!!
Kix - Atlantic, 1981
Cool Kids - Atlantic, 1983
Midnite Dynamite - Atlantic, 1985
Blow My Fuse - Atlantic, 1988
Blow My Fuse: The Videos (VHS) - Atlantic, 1989
Hot Wire - EastWest, 1991
Live - EastWest, 1993
Show Business - CMC, 1995
Thunderground - 2004 (Bootleg compilation of demos/unreleased tracks)
Live In Baltimore - Frontiers Records, 2012
Rock Your Face Off - Loud & Proud, 2014