July 30, 2014

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Aerosmith revives funky blues-rock with latest studio albums

Flickr/Rachel Petersen Photography

Aerosmith is a group that needs no introduction. The band is a living legend, having spawned more monster rock hits in its lifespan than one can count on both hands. The latest Aerosmith release, “Music from Another Dimension,” serves to reignite the band’s weathered flames.

Constant feuding and crippling drug addictions have kept the ‘Bad Boys from Boston’ silent for much of the new millennium. The new album is the first Aerosmith LP to hit record store shelves since 2004, and the band’s first full-length release of original music in over a decade.

Luckily, the group has not lost its ability to craft the type of funky blues-rock songs that made Aerosmith a household name. “Music from Another Dimension” is a return to hard, crunchy riff rocking.

While far from perfect, the album is a solid release from a band that is well past its prime. A sufficiently aged Steven Tyler, now 64, still belts his signature squeals as powerfully as he did in the 1970s and his band still has the chops to back him up.

Tracks like “Out Go the Lights” and “Street Jesus” prove it. Guitarist Joe Perry shreds something brilliant while Tyler cackles and howls like a madman.

“Luv XXX” falls somewhat flat as the album’s opener due to its excessive repetition, not to mention the goofy title. Luckily the band quickly makes up for the weak start with “Oh Yeah,” a heavy hitter that wreaks gritty, unfiltered rock power.

The band takes a more novel approach with “Beautiful.” Tyler’s lyrics during the verses are more spoken than sang, leading into fluid, drawn out choruses marked by his high-pitched wail.

The album also slows down a bit at certain points. “Tell Me” is a softer track that allows listeners to catch their breath after a rugged dive into the wild world of hard rock. Built over an acoustic chord progression and smothered in airy backing vocals, “Tell Me” seems as close to heaven as Aerosmith will dare to go.

The break from body-shaking blues-rock is quickly left behind, though, as the album enters “Out Go the Lights,” a track that is classic, high-powered Aerosmith. The groove continues until being interrupted by “What Could Have Been Love,” an effectively executed, gut-wrenching power ballad.

Sadly, the album also carries its share of total failures. “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” is a duet featuring “American Idol” star Carrie Underwood. The song sounds less like Aerosmith and more like desperate pandering to the country music demographic.

Tyler sits out on “Freedom Fighter,” relinquishing vocal duties to Perry, who sings like someone’s drunken uncle in a karaoke bar. His lukewarm performance only highlights the futility of Aerosmith without Tyler, who has always been the band’s main attraction.

Even while setting aside the disappointing vocal performance, “Freedom Fighter” is dissatisfying and hollow. Instead of sounding like a true rock and roll song played by seasoned veterans, it comes off like something out of a cheesy rock opera.

With Underwood and Perry’s vocals far from sight, “Lover Alot,” a sparkling gem on this album, comes chugging through the speakers like a rogue locomotive. Perry’s guitar screams through a dirty fuzz filter that makes for a uniquely satisfying solo. The song’s hair-raising energy makes it the most powerful track on the album.

The record also contains piano-driven tracks notable for their surprising tenderness. While most of Aerosmith’s sound has been traditionally defined by hard rock sensibilities, tracks like “We All Fall Down” and “Another Last Goodbye” remind listeners that Tyler and his gang boast an exceptional capacity for emotional depth.

All things considered, “Music from Another Dimension” is worth at least a few listens. The weak points are few and far between, and the fact that Aerosmith can still rock this hard after more than 40 years of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is beyond admirable – even if most of their albums do sound basically the same.

The band has clearly earned its place in music history.

Chris Trubac can be reached at ctrubac@student.umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Aerosmith revives funky blues-rock with latest studio albums”
  1. Robin says:

    I have read about 30 reviews on MFAD and yours is most closely reflects what I think and feel about this album. There are some novel high points, including female chorus and Perry creative flourishes at end of songs. I also enjoyed Hamilton singing on Up on the Mountain on the Deluxe version. Listen to that song loud. I hope this is not their last album.

  2. Hi Chris,
    I’m a big Aerosmith fan and appreciate the review, but disagree with a few points (also agree on quite a few). I have a blog where I also just reviewed the CD. Feel free to take a look and comment at http://www.jeremybednarski.com. Thanks.

    Jeremy

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