After Steven Tyler hopped into the hot seat as Simon Cowell's replacement on "American Idol", the subsequent public venting by Joe Perry made the prospect of a new AEROSMITH album (much less an album of all originals) pretty damned slim. Of course, their British counterparts Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have long set the bar for music mogul bitchery and THE ROLLING STONES are once again on tour this year. In the grand scheme of things, Tyler bailed on "Idol" and all seems forgiven in the AEROSMITH camp as we're treated to "Music From Another Dimension!" their first new record in eight years.
Despite the super-hip title, "Music From Another Dimension!" shouldn't be treated as anything groundbreaking or even a full-on attempt at shaking up AEROSMITH's sound for 2012. The gnarly B movie cover art is the closest AEROSMITH gets to treading towards a modish step forward. Instead, they reach for the bread and the butter and they sink a lot of duckets into another big-league, saucy rock 'n roll joint, the same one they've been recording since "Permanent Vacation".
If you're a diehard or merely in tune with kickback blues rock to down some suds to, then "Music From Another Dimension!" is your huckleberry, or sassafras, if you're Mr. Tyler. While nearly no one these days bothers to throw five years' worth of budget money into their production anymore, AEROSMITH spares no expense to hammer down this album with every glossy fill and gucci trick they can.
Shit-kicking stomp jams are abound such as "Legendary Child", "Oh Yeah", "Lover Alot", "Freedom Fighter", "Street Jesus" and "Luv XXX". Of these, "Lover Alot" has the most pep and the most drive, while "Street Jesus" and "Legendary Child" might be the biggest stretches into AEROSMITH's vintage years, albeit with a more modern luster to those songs' shaking and shimmying. "Street Jesus" gets dirty during Joe Perry's solo section and in response, Steven Tyler scats and swills at his side like nothing else matters between them other than mucking it up together.
"Beautiful" is perhaps AEROSMITH's most legitimate attempt to get out of their Nineties mode of writing with its grinding proto rawk and chunky bridges. Even the choruses slink with a near-alt sway. However, the majority of this album goes for broke by playing every chip AEROSMITH has on sure shot rolls from their past. "Out Go the Lights" becomes a distant cousin to both "Rag Doll" and "Love In An Elevator", not to mention 1977's "Draw the Line" album, complete with the swampy riffs and the ripping harmonicas. Add to the mix the familiar hump-along beat and cowbell cracks from Joey Kramer, plus the soul sista and brass backups. "Luv XXX" is a brazen rework of "Love In An Elevator" to the point of self-plagiarism. "Tell Me" surrenders to a few writhing lines from the "Rocks" era along with AEROSMITH's enduring dedication to dusty slide refrains spread throughout their more contemporary albums. Oddly enough, AEROSMITH comes off more like CANDLEBOX than themselves on "Tell Me". You may or may not consider that a renovation of their product.
The ballads are likewise plentiful and likewise reminiscent of AEROSMITH's Eighties and Nineties' most memorable love ditties, as if they felt a need to replicate "Crazy", "Angel" and "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". This time we get "What Could Have Been Love", "Another Last Goodbye" and the gimmicky southern-fried duet with Carrie Underwood, "Can't Stop Lovin' You". Even "We All Fall Down" comes off like a moody amalgam between "Angel" and "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". At least Steven Tyler reaches back into high-reaching pipes he might've thought were lost to him after the seventies on "Another Last Goodbye". Dark as it may be on the verses, the wriggling "Closer" can't resist spicing up its choruses with a hopeful yearning which counters Joe Perry's affective six string soul coughing.
Perry also fields lead vocals on "Freedom Fighter" and the slow riding blues and BEATLES-peppered haunt, "Something", which at least shows AEROSMITH as much in a comfort zone as ever to give Perry room to tinker. He might not have been granted such leniency twenty years ago since neither song is a commercial standout, yet kudos to the band for letting these experiments breathe. If anything, Perry's numbers give a little bit of credence to the album's title.
AEROSMITH didn't need to break the bank as heavily as they did on "Music From Another Dimension!" They are the Budweiser of American rock 'n roll, an automatic sell based on brand recognition and a red, white and blue ethic that smartly touches upon the happy spots of farmers and mechanics as much as the blue collars and gigolos. Credit where it's due: a band possessing their collective age and shared life experiences shouldn't be banging and swooning as effectively as AEROSMITH does today. They bring more than a posse of guests, including Julian Lennon to dub into their already slicked-up motherboard. "Music From Another Dimension!" may not be stellar, but it's stellar that AEROSMITH worries as much as they do in pointing the sharpest pistols they have in their trouper's arsenal.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.