When your public nemesis is the likes of Gene Simmons, it's not difficult to come off as the sympathetic party in the Kisstory war of words. Such is the high ground that Ace Frehley finds himself enjoying these days, even when he's making ludicrous us-vs-them claims about his own drawing power (at least Peter Criss has found the dignity of late to just lay the fuck low for a change).
Frehley's substance abuse problems are largely between he and his family and friends, former or otherwise. They've had a significant enough impact on his recording output, however, that it's almost impossible to note the gaps in his discography without at least citing them in passing. As a kid who grew up absolutely mesmerized by the larger-than-life image of Kiss, I was genuinely enthused to see Frehley make a comeback with 1987's semi-eponymous Frehley's Comet (God help me, I was even into Crazy Nights back in the day). The quality on that album tapered off pretty quick, with the only truly good song ("Into the Night") written by Russ Ballard, but it was good to see Ace throwing his hand in at a time when both public and record label exec alike were again prepared to reward his tenure.
Alas, the goodwill dried up pretty quick ("Insane" was the only video from followup Second Sighting that I remember seeing on Headbanger's Ball, although Wikipedia informs me one was produced for "It's Over Now" as well). By the time of 1989's Trouble Walkin' the man was reduced to peddling perfunctory covers (ELO's "Do Ya" ) and a little song co-written by Paul Stanley called "Hide Your Heart" (the latter would be released a few months later on Kiss' Hot in the Shade, as if to make damn sure that Frehley didn't wind up with an unearned hit single on his hands).
If the rest of the 90's weren't a blur for Frehley they certainly were for his fans. Aside from a very small handful of guest appearances on other people's albums, little was heard out of the man until Kiss took him off the shelf and reunited the original lineup in 1996. That delayed Frehley's inevitable slide back into reclusiveness for a bit, resulting in a lone studio album (Psycho Circus) which is pretty well acknowledged that Frehley had minimal involvement with.
Space Invader is Frehley's second studio album since Kiss once again told he and Peter Criss to go get fucked (only a slight paraphrase). From the sound of its dozen tracks, this would appear to have a lot more to do with Frehley just being plum out of ideas than anything else. There's a certain workmanlike promise in the central riffs of "Gimme a Feelin'" and "I Wanna Hold You", but as a total the album is catastrophically undermined by an unforgivable combination of flat-as-a-board production, tuneless, bar-band vocals and some truly execrable lyrics:
For big boys, boys
You’d be surprised
The joy they bring
I'm supposed to feel bad for mocking that? Come on, Ace. There's a fair amount of trite space imagery, as might be expected ("Space Invader /He comes from distant galaxies") but mostly it's about scoring chicks. If there's one thing he and Gene have in common it's a lack of age-appropriate sexual restraint. Even the Space Ace stuff just reeks of a 13-year old riffing artlessly on an old Silver Surfer comic, and he covers Steve Miller's played out "The Joker" seemingly for the sole purpose of being able to lean heavily on the line "some people call me the Space Cowboy!" Fail, dude. Fail.
I grew up on 80's glam and 70's hard rock, so no one wants these throwback albums to be unexpectedly great anymore than me. Obviously not Ace, given the paucity of inspiration he bothered devoting to Space Invader. You can hate Paul and Gene all you want, but all evidence would seem to vindicate their claims that they carried their ex-bandmates back in the day, and for probably far longer than they were obligated to.