BLOW MY FUSE
Released on September 19, 1988 (Atlantic Records)
As time was drawing closer to Kix’s Fuse 30 Reblown CD reboot release of their classic 1988 album Blow My Fuse on September 21st, I have to admit to feeling a bit excited, nostalgic, and proud when I saw it on my list of possible retro reviews for the month. You see, in 1981, the first Kix record was the very first album I picked up shortly after getting back to the States that year and helped fill a void left after leaving behind some great friends and a great time in Germany. That record, with very a cool looking Steve Whiteman leaning forward — scraggly blonde mane and all — mixed a very cool blend of Cheap Trick like rock and roll with bits of power pop and new wave all wrapped into a fun bag of naughty adolescent mayhem. That K-Mart pick up in Atlanta in 1981 was just the start of a musical fondness that built over the following decade through great albums like Cool Kids, Midnite Dynamite, Hot Wire, and Kix’s best-selling Blow My Fuse. While I myself would pick Cool Kids or Midnite Dynamite if given the option of choosing a single Kix record to listen, enjoy, or write about, they all have a close knit rock and roll place in Kix-tory and in my opinion, all get a “yeah yeah yeah” cool rating.
Smacked onto the world in September 1988, Kix’s Blow My Fuse stands as the final transformation of the band from quirky cool hard touring club act into full blown international sleazy hard rock and roll band. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the band was always fun but in 1988, fans realized just how much rock and roll swagger the guys were actually hiding beneath those leather rousers, low slung guitars, and cheeky tales of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With more sexual innuendos than the supposed hidden bits in a Disney cartoon, Kix tunes were (and still are) fun and a bit off the beaten path compared to songs from other ’80s bands and at times bordering on clever nursery rhymes for big kids but hey hey hey, memorable, fun tunes are a good bit of what made Kix so loveable to begin with.
As a huge fan in the seventies of Cheap Trick, AC/DC, as well as power pop bands like Fotomaker and early Cars, it’s not surprising that I fell for Kix right from the jump and along the way they just seemed to get even more rock and roll. After diving into the first three albums heart first, the guys then started appealing to my love for everything from the Ramones to the Stones even more on Blow My Fuse. By Hot Wire, there seemed to be very little about Kix’s musical sides I wouldn’t dig. Even later releases Show Business and the awesome Rock Your Face Off failed to disappoint. It’s truly a shame that more of the rest of the world hasn’t realized what their hometown and state have always known — Kix are one of the best live bands on the planet with some of the coolest songs and records. Yeah yeah yeah, don’t tell me no… it’s true, true, true!
Referring to Kix as not your typical ’80s hair band is kind of a side-handed statement. On one hand, the Baltimore, Maryland rockers kick up enough leather and long hair to throw down with any of hair metals’ finest but at the same time carry enough quirky, tongue-in-cheek characteristics typically avoided by heavier rock groups from that decade. Kix never seemed to care about looking cool as much as they cared about having fun. You kinda got the feeling that for Kix, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was more a good time than a reputation to boast about. Yeah, Gene Simmons will never let you forget that he slept with your mom, daughter, cousin, sister, even grandma. Whiteman and crew just wanted to show up in your town, have a great time with you, then move on to the next good time. Heck, Kix didn’t even care about following typical ’80s hair band protocol when releasing Blow My Fuse, choosing “Don’t Close Your Eyes” as the album’s fourth single as opposed to the then tried and true hair band formula of following a rocking kick-off single with a power ballad as the follow-up second single. Crazy as that may seem, despite veering away from what everyone else was having success with, Kix hit pay dirt as “Don’t Close Your Eyes” became the band’s biggest charting track. But while that is surely an ’80s classic, for my money, it’s still the fun, catchy, irresistible tunes on Blow My Fuse that keeps me listening year in and year out.
While rock historians will certainly cite the previously mentioned “Don’t Close Your Eyes” as well as hard rocking track “Cold Blood” as key components for the success of Blow My Fuse, and with good reason, Kix’s fourth release benefits largely due to being packed with great rock and roll tunes. Tracks that grab you and just let go long enough to let you barely catch your breath before the next song snatches you up. Think about it — how can a fan of sing-a-long anthem rock and roll not get sucked in from the jump with an opening track like “Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT” with its simple chant chorus and suggestive lyrics? Even with verse lyrics a tad more clever than the average ’80s rock lyric, it doesn’t get so complex as to jump too far over any heads. Slightly more than a customary few “baby, baby” lines but not too far removed from classic “yeah yeah yeah” bits, Kix have always found a way to walk a clever line between simple and sassy. It’s what sets them apart from the typical male, macho bravado, hedonistic charm of ’80s rock. Yeah, Kix like to walk on the wild side like all your other favorite sleaze bands. They just didn’t feel like they needed to beat everyone within spitting distance over the head with a sign to let ’em know so.
Even though Blow My Fuse may be Kix at their rock and roll sleaziest, in grand band tradition, the guys still manage to take their “AC/DC meets a buncha other sugary sweet sounds” inspired rock and roll and mix stuff up. In addition to tearing off the starting line with just a romp of an opener, the guys hit the fast lane again and again on killer tunes like “No Ring Around Rosie,” “She Dropped Me the Bomb,” “Boomerang” and “Dirty Boys” without getting too distracted to change gears in between. Kix always manage to infiltrate their songs with a nifty mix of adult content and youthful mother goose-like infectiousness somehow making sense of headbanging while chanting “boom-boom-boom-boom-erang” or singing “we all fall down” on a tune like “No Ring Around Rosie.” That same fun applies most of the time regardless of whether the tune rips down the track or veers around a sharp corner like on punchier numbers like “Get It While It’s Hot” — a tune that creeps dangerously close to 1986 Cinderella tune “Shake Me” — or “Piece of the Pie” — a classic sounding Kix tune along the lines of earlier track “Sex” from the band’s previous release Midnight Dynamite.
Down the stretch, the guys cruise classic a la title track “Blow My Fuse” along the way slowing down just enough to show that underneath all that hair, leather, and dirty exterior, even bad boys can have a softer, more serious side. This turns up on Blow My Fuse by way of Kix’s sole top 20 charting track — “Don’t Close Your Eyes” — a tune showing far more depth than your average ’80s hair metal power ballad. Yeah, Kix are rock and roll, Kix are fun, and sure, Kix may be for kids but Kix weren’t no dummies despite all that catchy bubblegummy sing-a-long rock and roll goodness. Record labels may have agreed that the formula for hair band success was to follow up a cool fun rock track with a sweet slow love ballad to woo teenage girls out of their boyfriends’ allowance dough for that romantic cassingle but Kix would rather hit the playground with three fun rock and roll tunes to soften things up for a slow, dark commentary on suicide. Hardly seems like a best-selling idea but in a period where nuclear bombs and the PMRC were casting dark clouds over future generations, kids needed to feel like someone might understand and while normally Kix were happy to play cheerleader, they also weren’t afraid to let you know that they got why you needed cheering up in the first place.
I could go on and on about the rock and roll coolness of Kix and Blow My Fuse. Another great album of great songs in a consistently great catalog by not only a great rock and roll band, but perhaps STILL one of the best freaking live acts on the planet. Ever since I picked up that first Kix release in Atlanta well over 30 years ago, the band’s music has followed me through life even finding spots in my list of tunes to cover live. “Cold Blood” is always a great one to crank out live while “For Shame” (from 1983’s Cool Kids) is fun to pull out occasionally during solo acoustic sets but honestly only Kix can truly do justice to Kix songs. They’re just fun to play!
Speaking of fun to play, a few years back when Kix released Rock Your Face Off, I shared my love for the band’s latest online with friends who I figured would dig and was shocked when one of them was surprisingly shocked that this much older version of Kix had released an album about as he put it, “chicks, cars, and rock and roll.” I had to chuckle before saying “What did you expect? Old ladies, wheelchairs, and modern country?” Oh, the horror just thinking about it! So yeah, on this 30th anniversary let’s all make sure we have a cool copy of Blow My Fuse (vinyl would be choice) and crank it up until we all fall down! And when the Fuse 30 Reblown CD hits, make sure you get it while it’s hot… yeah, yeah, yeah!
01. Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT
02. Get It While It’s Hot
03. No Ring Around Rosie
04. Don’t Close Your Eyes
05. She Dropped Me The Bomb
06. Cold Blood
07. Piece Of The Pie
09. Blow My Fuse
10. Dirty Boys
Steve Whiteman – lead vocals, harmonica
Ronnie “10/10” Younkins – guitars
Brian “Damage” Forsythe – guitars
Donnie Purnell – bass, keyboards, piano, backing vocals
Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Produced by Tom Werman, Duane Baron and John Purdell
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, September 2018
Kix‘s “Get It While It’s Hot” video:
Kix‘s “Cold Blood” video:
Kix‘s “Blow My Fuse” video:
Kix‘s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” video: