I grew up during Aerosmith’s reunion: I was eight when Pump came out and twelve when Get a Grip was released – which was apparently old enough to stay up to watch that SNL skit pointing out all Aerosmith ballads are the same. My introduction to Aerosmith was therefore Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV) and Wayne’s World 2.
When I was young enough, they seemed cool. The older I got, the more like a caricature of the hard rock bands I was slowly discovering they seemed. And then they released “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” which may be the worst thing about Armageddon (I exaggerate slightly) – something that is a particularly difficult accomplishment – an ’80s power ballad somehow recorded and released in 1998 by a band that was supposedly good in the ’70s…
So you can understand how confused I got when I read music critic praise about “classic” Aerosmith and when people I knew insisted they were good. By the time I was in my early 20s, and my tastes were getting fully formed, Aerosmith seemed like one of most overrated bands in history.
I am familiar with a number of the songs here: “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” because of their endless repetition on classic rock radio – and which I wrongly associated with the self-parodying Aerosmith of my youth – and the title track because of the REM cover. But none of those really prepared me for how dirty and, for lack of a better word, “Stonesy” this record is. The record sounds sleazy, and I guess because these guys are young, and because I have my Amateur Musicologist hat on, it doesn’t sound like a bunch of dirty old men trying to recapture their glory days in the face of grunge.
The vibe and aesthetic are excellent. The sound is a little too consistent – it would be nice if the band had a little more variety too it than just loud blues rock and a token ballad – but everything is really strong.
The only thing that, for me, keeps it from being a true classic, the true classic that so many critics have assured me it is, is the songwriting; with the exception of the too often repeated verse of the title track, which really does contain some good lyrics, Steven Tyler isn’t exactly a good lyricist. Now, he’s a lot better than some other guys in the Hard Rock racket, but that is damning with faint praise. And I guess what I am saying is that I would love it if this dirty, muscular blues rock was paired with a little more wit and insight. That’s probably asking a little much, but I can’t help myself.
Still, it totally made me rethink my image of this band, and that’s something.