Aerosmith, ‘Music from Another Dimension!’ – Album Review
There’s a lot of good stuff happening on the new Aerosmith album, ‘Music from Another Dimension!,’ and the things that are wrong with it just might be your fault.
If you’re one of the tragically few loyal fans who bought the group’s initial and highly underrated 1985 comeback album, the properly gritty and hook-filled ‘Done With Mirrors,’ then you can excuse yourself from this lecture. If there were more of us, ‘Music from Another Dimension!’ might more closely resemble the lean, mean throwback fighting machine we were so desperately hoping for this time out.
However, if you held out, and forced Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and company to partner up with outside songwriters and dance with the devil known as modern production values in order to regain their rightful place in the rock hierarchy with 1987’s ‘Permanent Vacation,’ what can we tell you? Maybe you deserve to have their new album’s most calculated and saccharine song, the Carrie Underwood duet ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,’ attacking you on the radio and at the local grocery store over and over for the next two years.
Not that ‘Vacation’ and 1989’s ‘Pump’ didn’t each have a whole lot of high points; they’re damn fine records. But in retrospect their massive, pop-audience success left Aerosmith somewhat lost and chasing after fool’s gold through much of the ’90s and ’00s. The result was a handful of excellent singles (‘Cryin’,’ ‘Jaded,’ arguably ‘Pink’) lost in a sea of over-processed rock or cloying, adult-contemporary ballads, culminating with their last original studio album, 2001’s ‘Just Push Play,’ which the band has personally derided in several interviews.
As we’ve been hearing for seemingly years now, ‘Music from Another Dimension!’ was supposed to be the record that would change all that, and it succeeds at least to some degree. The ‘roided-up production style is apparently never going all the way back into the genie’s bottle, even with ‘Toys in the Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ veteran Jack Douglas in the producer’s chair. But by our count there’s about 10 good, very good or great songs on ‘Music from Another Dimension!,’ demonstrating the full range of the band’s known abilities and even some new tricks.
These include the album’s opener, ‘Love XXX,’ in which Steven Tyler whips himself up into a frenzy explaining the benefits of frequent lovemaking over a locomotive rhythm section and alternately driving and spiraling guitars. The gritty verses of ‘Beautiful’ give way to one of the album’s earliest surprises: a huge, almost psychedelic chorus featuring lush backing vocals that contrast perfectly with Tyler’s distinct rasp.
The aching, Byrds-influenced country rock of ‘Tell Me’ is another bright spot, but it’s the two extended guitar workouts, ‘Out Go the Lights’ and ‘Street Jesus,’ that find Aerosmith most properly wired into their legacy. The rhythm and swagger of the former in particular demonstrates how admirably they’ve stayed connected to the R&B influences that so many of their peers wandered away from at some point in their careers.
There’s also the propulsive, tongue-twisting ‘Lover Alot,’ the intriguingly moody, atmospheric ‘Closer,’ and a closing ballad in ‘Another Last Goodbye’ that wouldn’t need to hang its head if it turned up at the same party as the almighty ‘You See My Crying.’
So what’s the problem? Well for one thing, ‘Goodbye’ is one of four ballads on this overstuffed 15-track, 66-minute long album. ‘What Could Have Been Love’ is a fine example of a ’90s Aerosmith crossover hit, but the aforementioned ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’ and the 12-step Hallmark card that is ‘We All Fall Down’ combine to provide entirely too many empty calories for a healthy diet.
There’s also a handful of lesser rockers that clog up the works, such as ‘Oh Yeah’ and the clunky, Joe Perry-sung ‘Freedom Fighters,’ which sounds more like a modern-day Ted Nugent song and dramatically illustrates the irreplaceable value of Tyler’s wit and vocal dexterity.
Of course, in this digital age one can move these songs around as desired or delete them from their playlist altogether. If you do it right, you could wind up with the long-awaited worthy follow-up to ‘Pump,’ if not the long hoped for ‘Toys in the Attic 2.’