Aerosmith, ‘Music From Another Dimension!’ (Columbia)
Release Date: November 6, 2012
The run-up to Aerosmith’s 15th studio album has involved a lot of rib-nudging and “remember when”-ing. “Lover Alot,” one of the first songs to surface, is a nasty rave-up that sounds like it was excavated from some 40-year-old session tapes. The album was recorded with Jack Douglas, who was behind the boards for the Boston band’s rock-solid mid-’70s run (Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks). The DVD packaged with the deluxe version contains live takes on “Same Old Song and Dance” (get it?) and two other tracks from those glory days.
This retro-fetishism is perhaps understandable, what with the band nearly coming apart a few years back. Ever-mouthy frontman Steven Tyler fell offstage during a 2009 South Dakota show, went to rehab that winter, and — after the band auditioned for its own Ripper Owens while Tyler recuperated — joined the American Idol judging panel in 2010. Guitarist Joe Perry toured with the Joe Perry Project, which he formed right before he left the fold the first time in 1979. But the band eventually regrouped, and their first “rock” album since 2001’s Just Push Play is the result.
Aerosmith’s greatest records — mostly from the ’70s, yes, but also 1989’s Pump — make their case quickly, then hit the road, leaving you wanting more, a brevity that was a side effect of the vinyl era. But Music From Another Dimension! exists in the infinite-bandwith era of iTunes and the cloud, meaning its 15 tracks and nearly 70 minutes long and, consequently, a slog. This could be the result of sequencing: Tyler sounds half-awake on album opener “LUV XXX” (think a screwed-down “Love in an Elevator”); the saucy “Oh Yeah,” which follows, is clearly operating in the mode of Pump‘s second track, “F.I.N.E.” That’s not a bad thing at all, although reversing the two tracks might have allowed Dimension to have more overall impact.
Then again, “Lover Alot” still snarls, and “Tell Me,” a big drippy ballad (penned by bassist Tom Hamilton) belongs right up there with “What It Takes” in the pantheon of Great Aerosmith Slow Jams. The barroom pickup “Out Go the Lights” has Tyler in sleazy come-on mode à la “Rag Doll” and “Big Ten Inch Record,” and Perry’s solo during its coda sounds blissfully tossed-off. “Street Jesus” flips the “Toys in the Attic” riff and submerges it in a swamp of paranoia; “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” has Tyler trading off regret-filed verses with Idol winner Carrie Underwood, and is clearly the band’s nod to the fact that rock groups show up on country radio as much as anywhere else on the dial these days.
Overall, Dimension has some solid moments and no outright duds, but it works better as the basis for a playlist than as a start-to-finish album. Maybe Aerosmith should have taken lessons from the dimension in which they used to exist and made a great 10-song record; what it lacked in size, it could’ve made up in swagger.