"Sweet & Dirty Love," the rocking kickoff to ***HOLE, could be one of the lesser tracks on Kiss' Double Platinum. It rocks, it's simple, it's what Gene Simmons is best at, but it doesn't hint at the album to follow. The can't-believe-it's-so-faithful-to-the-original cover of Prodigy's "Firestarter" is the first clue that the album is overly indulgent, but its sampling/composition credit means that the Breeders' Kim Deal will receive royalty checks, and that's brilliant in anyone's book. That's the thing about ***HOLE: you don't listen and engage with it as much as sit back and marvel at it, as in "how does he get away with it, and on such a grand scale?" There are plenty of epic ballads in the style of the Beatles, freakish rockers with provocative lyrics, and an oddball set of guest stars. Believe it or not, Bob Dylan sat with the Demon and co-wrote the very plain "Waiting for the Morning Light." That tops the bit of trivia that Lou Reed once co-wrote with Simmons, but it doesn't outfreak the fact that "Black Tongue"'s writers' credit reads Simmons/Zappa (that the fabulous, glittery photographer David LaChapelle was hired for the cover is freakout number three). Why Gail Zappa handed over some old tapes of Frank to Simmons is anyone's guess, but he builds an almost worthy rocker around the bit of Frank-on-tape, and the Zappa kids seem to be having a lot of fun singing backup. It's almost infectious, but more so is the singalong title track, even better on the edited version of the album since all the naughty "A" words get replaced with a ridiculous sheep bleat. "Whatever Turns You On (Turns Me On)" is the other singalong, but this time it's groovy with a near jam band feel. Former playmate Shannon Tweed and her family are in the chorus just to make it extra freaky. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi

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