As some people may be aware or some may not be, Aerosmith’s an interesting band. Probably because they were two different bands during their career. You’ve got the aggressive, dangerous, sleazy, drug-pumped 70’s (actually, that lasted through the mid 80’s as well) Aerosmith and the “see them everyday on MTV” – still kinda cool, but aged, cautious and clean Aerosmith (late 80’s to today). Thing is, they did not only change their image, but their music as well. One quick glance at their ‘Permanent Vacation’ album, which is widely accepted as their turning point, will prove you so. First thing to be noticed, the album is much longer. Topping at 51 minutes and 46 seconds it is about 15 minutes longer than any other previous effort. But let us not get fooled. Those 52 minutes may be good! The next conspicuous thing is the presence of a helluva many additional song-writers. What, the toxic twins team was not good enough? Other things worth mentioning are : the fact that they got a new deal with Geffen, a record company responsible for many other successful acts, the producer is a new one which deals with the glory of Bon Jovi, Poison, Scorpions, Van Halen and others, and, last but not the least, the presence of a horn section. So what does this mean? Experimentation time? Or just getting-on-with-today’s-trends time?
Which brings me to my first point. See, there are few things I respect and appreciate in a band more than experimenting and trying new stuff. Just as there are very few things I hate more in a band than making songs based on the same old formula that once made them successful. So, is this an experiment worth commending? My answer is no. This is certainly not an experiment. ‘Prelude To Joanie’ from ‘Rock In A Hard Place’, now that was an experiment. I’m pretty sure the stoned-out-of-his-mind Steven Tyler didn’t give a flying fuck about whether the new generation will like Aerosmith more because of the vocoder and the African drum or whatever other things they were experimenting with. That’s an experiment I respect, even though the results are not something I particularly favour. ‘Permanent Vacation’ is the exact opposite. They gave up and told their managers : “OK, we’ll do whatever it takes to become popular again”. Hence the new producer, the new sound, the new song-writing teams, and well, the new band. They didn’t change their style in order to pursue a different, yet wanted artistic approach, they did it because they had nothing else to do. They needed to remain on top and what better way is there, than transforming yourself into a trendy band? Cheesy and cliche-filled so-called “power ballads”? Checked. Less riffs and more pop-orientated catchy, yet repetitive choruses? Checked again. A whole new fan-base? Definitely.
So, they changed. But are they any good at this thing? This is the thing that I can’t deny, for the most part. Steven Tyler had always had a great ear for melody and probably can write a catchy chorus even while sleeping. And obviously, people require a certain gift for their songs to become #1 constantly. So, they handle the new style pretty well. But what about the music itself, do I like any of it? Well, I, myself, have never been into 80’s rock bands. Of course, I don’t mean every rock band that played something in the 80’s. I’m referring to that particular genre that Aerosmith was trying to incorporate. Things that Bon Jovi or Motley Crue usually played. Uhm, what’s the term? Glam metal? Hair metal? Pop-metal? Nevermind, you get the idea.
So, as you can, see, I’m not particularly into that genre itself. Yet, supposedly, Aerosmith are one of my favourite bands. I must like at least some of it, don’t I? Come on, there’s gotta be some of the magic that made me a fan in the first place left. Thing is, there is not. Why? Because I simply don’t resonate/respond at all to the music they’ve been doing for the last 25 years. Let me explain this a bit further. While they may be decent at it, I just don’t feel anything while I listen to that music. The ballads don’t make me emotional and the rockers don’t give me the need to do something, whether it’s air-guitar/drumming or head-banging or simply acting like a total idiot while yelling along with Tyler. Very, very few songs proved me otherwise. Most of them just leave me cold and emotionless. Best case scenario, I sing along to the song’s chorus. But that surely can’t be enough, can it? If I’m looking for catchiness and only catchiness I may as well listen to a Madonna album. And really, is there anything more important than resonance when evaluating music? I don’t care if most of the songs may be original and quite tuneful. They are just not the things that I want Aerosmith to be playing.
I liked them in the 70’s for a few different reasons. First of all , they were a fresh rebellious young band that started as an american version of The Rolling Stones, but soon enough ended up rocking harder then them. Second, they were actually quite talented musicians in their own right. And you can pick that up by just playing one of their first 6 albums. Third, their music and live shows actually offered some interesting elements : energy, fresh guitar riffs, excellent screamin’ by lead singer Steven Tyler, dangerousness, bad attitude, rebellious image and a bit of charisma as well. I get it, though. You can’t play the same things for all of your life. The musical trends will come and go and you’ll be stuck there with nothing left. The 80’s came and found Aerosmith at their rock bottom. Their manage to clean their act up and be successful again, though lost a generation of fans by changing themselves and their music. They gained a new one though, and they are now alive and still famous. They made ends meet somehow, but what about their music? What should it look like nowadays?
As the great reviewer Mark Prindle once pointed out, with each new album, the expectations are high. Every time the members go on the record saying how this time things will be different. This time they’ll go back to being a true rockin’ band. This time they’ll write and produce the way they want, not the way their managers want them to. This is the exact same publicity that ‘Music From Another Dimension’ (their new, unreleased-yet album) got and continues to get this year. Even Jack Douglas, the guy with whom they worked in the 70’s is back! When you look at things, there are chances that this time things will actually be different. Simply because Aerosmith has nothing left to prove. They’ve been on the top, then on the bottom, then on the top again (no sexual pun intended!). They proved themselves as a worthy band twice. They’re in their 60’s and they obviously do the music because they love it, not because of the money or because they need to prove something to somebody. So, the artistic approach should come naturally, they simply should do what they like best. The decisions lies between them and I hope they choose the right thing to do : something that sounds more like the old Aerosmith. I’m sure that rebel spirit still exists inside them. They just need to find a good way to put it into music.
P.S: About the songs that have already been released as singles, well, I’ve been trying to avoid them until the album comes out. I don’t want to make any prejudices and I’m waiting ’til November 6, when I will be able to fully analyze the album as a whole.