Well, this is a surprise. I didn’t think Aerosmith as we knew them were making records any more. What with Steven Tyler being kicked out the band and then descending into American talent show hell. This release has slipped under my radar, giving rise to fantasies of the guys secretly bashing this out in a home studio whilst the WAG’s upstairs are organising a charity dinner. One look at the writing credits will dispel that though, with the likes of Dianne Warren attached to hopefully provide a couple more hits. I’m sure all the big guns have been assembled as usual in the hope of one last hurrah for a band who surely haven’t got many more records in them.
Despite all thi,s it’s a shame to report that this album sounds a little flat. It lacks either the high shine magic of “Pump” or the raunchy power of earlier “Rocks” era material. A sinful error when even unsigned bands can produce amazing sounding records. Speaking of their original heyday circa “Rocks” and “Toys in the Attic”, it seems Aerosmith have taken the time to consider their legacy and several tracks here slyly re-purpose famous lyrics. ‘Legendary Child’ is, in fact, not only a homage to ‘Last Child’ but also a retelling and celebration of their past.
Amongst all the nostalgia and usual teeth-itchingly sugary ballads, there are a handful of good rock songs. All the Aerosmith classic moves are utilised on ‘Street Jesus’ ,’Lover Alot’ and ‘Beautiful’. Tumbling, taut Joe Perry riffs and the way Tyler drags out the last word of every line and the band pile in with the harmonies, well, it puts a smile on my face however many times they do it. I do wish Tom Hamilton‘s bass was more upfront though. That production has neutered his big funky balls and results in less swing than I like in my ‘Smith songs.
Perhaps the only real surprises here, are that Aerosmith occasionally don’t sound like Aerosmith, and on each occasion when they don’t, it actually works quite well. Two tracks are sung by Joe Perry, and both are gems. You could very easily convinced me that ‘Freedom Fighter’ was Warren Zevon in fist-pumping angry mood. It even has a bitter warlord-bashing lyric which Zevon could perhaps have penned. Joe Perry again takes lead on ‘Something’ and there is a satisfying bar room world-weariness in its groove that grows on you.
Another highlight is “Closer”, being a slower number that thankfully never descends into schmaltz, with it’s slightly creepy lyric it manages to be sophisticated, instead of movie sound track, mind-numbing tosh. There a lot of songs on this album, and it really could have done with a bit of an edit. The only other track worth mentioning is the duet with Carrie Underwood ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’. It’s one I’m going to file under ‘guilty pleasure’. It’s a perky little country pop song which is tailor made for middle American ears, rather than our more refined European ones, but which never the less I can’t help liking. It’s insanely catchy, I warn you!
There are clues here that this may be Aerosmith‘s last album. It is unusually self-referential, slightly world weary and closes with ‘Another Last Goodbye’. It’s not going to sully the bands good name, but it would have been miraculous if it had let them go out on a high. I’m old enough to remember when they reformed in 1984, in fact, it was on the front page of the first issue of Kerrang! I ever bought. This album allows me to continue to remember them fondly and continue to enjoy them, until they take that permanent vacation.