Time is the great healer. It’s the one certainty in rock’n’roll. No matter how wild a band’s exploits, no matter how much the individual members may hate each other: they will either die young or become silver haired stadium sized professionals. The Rolling Stones, The Who, even Fleetwood Mac; they have all aged gracefully. Apparently Aerosmith didn’t get the memo. Despite becoming the friendly face of American Idol, Steven Tyler managed to put his band and a series of multi-million dollar tours in jeopardy. Falling out with Joe Perry, becoming addicted to painkillers, entering rehab, and quitting the band - not bad for a man in his 60s.
Sanity and relationships restored (for the time being at least) Tyler returns to create Music From Another Dimension! the band’s first album of original material since 2001’s Just Press Play. Aerosmith set their stall out early, introducing Music From Another Dimension! to the listener as a mock concept album with spoken word opening that parodies The Outer Limits’ iconic prologue. They promise that the listener will “experience the awe and mystery, from your ultimate fantasy to your deepest fear”, but rather than producing a harrowing glimpse of hard rock’s future, Aerosmith take us back in time.
Despite the odd futuristic concession (“Legendary” attempts to blend 70s prog and 60s mysticism), Aerosmith seem to have turned back the clock to the mid-90s: when rock bands were huge and the public had an insatiable appetite for saccharine ballads. The production is obnoxious, and frankly distracting, as Aerosmith attempt to sound colossal. The results are hit and miss. The band are clearly locked in, hurtling downhill relentlessly on “Street Jesus” and continuously teasing the listener with quick bursts of Joe Perry’s legendary woozy, jutting rhythms. Unfortunately, underwhelming ballads (“What Could Have Been”, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”) and misjudged attempts at bombastic sleaze (“Beautiful”) leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Tyler feels so comically out of touch (“You’ll be spanking your monkey while she’s all up in your shit”) that he almost accidently defuses the album’s sinisterly lecherous modus operandi. When he puts his lascivious instincts to one side, Tyler seems intent on reproducing his latter-day hits. He might have lost his songwriting touch, but Tyler is still a hell of a performer, and when he hands over the writing burden to Tom Hamilton (“Tell Me”) and Diane Warren (“We All Fall Down”) the results are genuinely encouraging.
Joe Perry might be a touch heavy handed, but his star shines on Music From Another Dimension! Not only does he unleash a string of nippy solos, but when he takes the reigns, he delivers an album salvaging turn. “Freedom Fighter” is a gritty, resolute political rocker that recalls Tom Petty, while “Something” is a gorgeous drifting haze. The momentum is irresistible, and Tyler finally tones it down and gets in on the act, nailing a pleading destitute ballad (“Closer”). Disaster averted.
Music From Another Dimension! attempts to turn the clock back to the mid-90s, but the booming plastic rock feels awkward and out of touch. Believe it or not, maturity suits Aerosmith. It’s time for the band to embrace Perry’s more worldly and graceful sound on record, even if they continue to act disgracefully in public.
Buy if:you love the big ballad, crass rock of the 90s.
Skip if:you prefer a more serious and less smultzy Aerosmith.
Best Track:“Freedom Fighter”
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