Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jaded: Aerosmith revisit old magic

album review

Aerosmith release their new album after more than a decade in hopes of reviving their former glory

Band: Aerosmith
Album: Music from Another Dimension!

Based on the events of the last few years, it was anyone's guess whether Aerosmith would still be together in 2012. The band that found stardom four decades ago with the release of multi-platinum albums like Get Your Wings (1974), Toys in the Attic (1975), and Rocks (1976), has since battled internal feuds, splits, hiatuses, squabbles, and health issues, often leaving their status in turmoil. So the release of their long delayed new album is a bit of a triumph - they've overcome personal issues (and even more impressively, they've overcome American Idol) to once again reunite in the name of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, which is exactly what they deliver on Music from Another Dimension!

Years in the making, their fifteenth studio album and first set of original material since 2001's fun but inconsequential Just Push Play (the 2004 follow-up to which was mostly a set of blues covers), Music from Another Dimension! sees the band produce more of their trademark sound, undeterred by the fact that their luster has waned over the last few releases. There is more blues tinged hard rock on offer here, powered by Steven Tyler's distinctive vocals and Joe Perry's searing riffs.

The album puts together sounds from their entire career with varying results. The rollicking 'Lover A Lot' proves that these veteran rockers haven't entirely lost their swagger. Perry's guitar licks shine on tracks like 'Out Go the Lights' and 'Street Jesus' (and he also lends his vocals to the songs 'Freedom Fighter' and 'Something'). But for a band as eccentric as Aerosmith, a couple of non-descript power ballads (which include 'Can't Stop Lovin' You', a duet with country pop singer and former Idol champ Carrie Underwood) turn out to be far less exciting; these tracks are clearly aimed at the audience that gobbled up 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing', an intention that becomes completely transparent when you see that Diane Warren has penned one of these tracks, titled 'We All Fall Down'.

Aerosmith have worked - and somehow survived - for decades to amass a vast catalogue and fan following, and whether you got into their music in the '70s or '80s or '90s (and whether you continued to be able to listen to them without wincing after you had to hear that Armageddon song so many times that it made you want to root for that darned asteroid instead), you'll find components of their sound from each of these eras spliced into some of these songs. It, however, is hard to refute that their more recent output hasn't been at par with the material of their heydays. If you see Tyler's time on American Idol as a struggle to find relevance, then Music from Another Dimension! is Aerosmith setting out on a quest for relevancy but not quite sure how to get there. The set doesn't sound contemporary, and they might think that the presence of an Idol alumnus will make them seem more current and make their appeal wider, but the guest appearance fails to achieve this or any other significant effect.

For the most part, Music from Another Dimension! sounds like you've heard it before and you've heard it done better by the very same musicians. At its best, the set offers the kind of raunchy version of bluesy rock 'n' roll that Aerosmith perfected in the '70s and have henceforth been known for, and serves as a reminder of what the band is capable of; at its worst, you have to contend with damp squibs in the form of power ballads, the kind that brought them commercial success in the '90s; and on the whole it showcases a band the seems to be way past its prime. Ultimately, there is a sense that this album, and perhaps even the band that made it, belongs in a bygone decade, and Music from Another Dimension! simply makes you nostalgic for Aerosmith's glory days.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 27th January, 2013

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