Album Title: Music From Another Dimension
Track listing: 1. LUV XXX; 2. Oh Yeah; 3. Beautiful; 4. Tell Me; 5. Out Go the Lights; 6. Legendary Child; 7. What Could Have Been Love; 8. Street Jesus; 9. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You; 10. Lover Alot; 11. We All Fall Down; 12. Freedom Fighter; 13. Closer; 14. Something; 15. Another Last Goodbye [Deluxe CD] 1. Up On The Mountain; 2. Oasis in the Night; 3. Sunny Side of Love
I’ve finally unveiled rock legends Aerosmith’s grand plan for protecting their legacy – subliminal revisionism. I recall being somewhat underwhelmed by 1997’s “Nine Lives”; a brash, sprawling follow-up to multi-platinum mainstream hit-machine “Get a Grip”. Four years later it seemed like a minor classic in comparison to the eclectic “Just Push Play”. Now, in 2012, even “Just Push Play” may be considered under-appreciated when laid side-by-side with “Music From Another Dimension”.
It’s the record that almost never got made what with Steven Tyler falling off stage, Steven Tyler going to rehab, and Steven Tyler becoming a mainstream TV star. In fact the only time the other band members entered public consciousness was when Steven Tyler was talking trash about them or they were threatening to form some sort of New Aerosmith without him.
And if you thought all that tension and middle-aged angst would translate in to an inspired, angry opus, you’d be dead wrong. The presence of Jack Douglas – legendary producer of “Toys in the Attic” and “Rocks” – suggested a return to the attitude and swagger of the mid 70s. But there’s very little he can do with the dearth of strong material and a band that seem at odds with themselves.
It’s part-Aerosmith album, part-Joe Perry solo record, part-Steven Tyler solo album and the deluxe version even features a debut lead vocal from bassist Tom Hamilton. If it sounds like a patchwork, it really is – an overlong one.
There are high moments for sure. Joe Perry’s infectious, Stones-inspired “Oh Yeah”, enhanced by horns and female backing vocals, finds the group in their element. Similarly, the seven-minute “Out Go the Lights” recalls the good-time groove of “Get the Lead Out” and “Lick and a Promise“, while Brad Whitford’s “Street Jesus” is a very good 21st century “Jailbait“. “Lover Alot” – in spite of it’s seven (!) co-songwriters – is an efficient rocker without pretensions and I’m willing to admit that its complete antithesis – Diane Warren-penned ballad “We All Fall Down” – does overwrought sentiment very well.
Then there’s the near-misses. “Beautiful” combines a punchy rhythm, with Tyler’s menacing semi-rap (‘I was earjacking, eavsdropping/down on my knees so I can hear what she was sayin’ … Now I got to thinkin’/About my high-speed, dirty deeds’), a fantastic guitar section from guitarists Brad Whitford and Perry but just when the song should be exploding with a crescendo, it gets dragged down by an insipid chorus.
Opener “LUV XXX” is a little lackluster in spite of its crunching riffs and reasonable hook, while the formulaic “Legendary Child” walks that fine line – a lazy rehash of “Walk This Way” or a sassy tribute to their own history?
But the ballads, oh the ballads. In isolation any one of the country-like “Tell Me”, the uplifting but by-numbers “What Could Have Been Love”, Carrie Underwood duet “Can’t Stop Loving You”, or piano-driven album closer “Another Last Goodbye” would be fine. But there’s five of them. On a fifteen track rock album.
The end of the record seems almost like it was tacked on when no one was looking. Two sturdy Joe Perry vocal vehicles (“Freedom Fighter”, “Something”) and the noirish curiosity “Closer” (co-written by Joey Kramer) are okay but don’t seem very necessary.
And if it seems like the album will never end you can make it last even longer by shelling out a few extra bucks for the deluxe edition. Hamilton’s 80s rocker “Up on the Mountain” is a victory for the popular axeman who survived throat and tongue cancer while Perry picks up the mic again for “Oasis in the Night”. The eighty minute carnival ends with the “Jaded“-lite pop song “Sunny Side of Love”; a surprisingly good radio-friendly hook – certainly miles better than those “Girls of Summer“.
The album lacks hits. There’s not really anything as good as “Beyond Beautiful” or “Jaded” and in fifteen years time we’ll still be hearing “Pink” on rock stations. But for all that, it’s encouraging to see Tyler and Perry writing together again (“Luv XXX”, “Out Go the Lights”) and great to hear meaningful contributions from Whitford, Hamilton and Kramer.
It’s overlong, clunky and mostly average but I’m sure in a decade I’ll wonder how it wasn’t considered for a Grammy.