You see, I’m an Aerosmith fanboy in the worst way. My 11th commandment, once upon a time, was “thou shalt have no rock band over Aerosmith.” I’ve waited on a store to open to buy a new Aerosmith record. At one point, I probably had a different Aerosmith T-shirt for every day of the week. In high school, I was routinely late for school if Aerosmith were on MTV or the radio because I wouldn’t leave until the song was over. I got in fights with people who had the audacity to say Aerosmith sucks.
Truth is, though, Music from Another Dimension kinda sucks.
I was hoping for the revitalized Aerosmith. Jack Douglas, producer of the band’s best records, was back on board. They’d had 11 years to write it. I’d hoped the swagger would be back. At times there are flashes of it, but more often than not, it sounds like the same overproduced commercial claptrap they’ve been trotting out for a long, long time.
Let’s start with the song that, for some reason, they chose to introduce the album with – “Legendary Child.” It’s like an amalgamation of everything the band’s done wrong since its reunion in the 1980s. It’s shiny, glitzy, super-slick and lacks any of the soul, blues or balls of their 1970s work. To me, it sounds like a reject from the Get a Grip sessions, and I consider that the band’s worst record, period – even worse than the Joe Perry-less Rock in a Hard Place or the electronic mess that was Just Push Play.
The first real sign of life we get is fifth track “Out Go the Lights,” which opens with a slinky, bluesy groove that’s most definitely in the band’s classic wheelhouse with some of that swagger and the expected sleazy lyrics. There are some cool female backing vocals, and it’s sounding like maybe there might be something to this record after all. But, of course, Steven Tyler can’t resist that big, glammy, squeaky clean chorus that starts about a minute and a half in and pulls the listener out of that zone. Still, it’s the best song here.
The next really good number we run into is “Street Jesus,” which opens with a tasty blues rock groove with Tyler matching Perry’s guitar riff vocally. That turns into a full-on “Rats in the Cellar” style rocker – or probably as close as they can get to it these days. Dirty up the production a little bit and you might have something approaching one of their 1970s tunes, but like most of this album, and much of the work in the band’s modern era, all of the rawness is polished out of it. Even though it’s a really good song, it ends up sounding just a little sterile instead of leaving you on the edge of your seat like the aforementioned “Rats in the Cellar.”
Interestingly the two Perry songs, usually just obligatory nods to the guitarist’s desire to sing, are among the better tunes on this one. They’re about the only songs that have a little roughness to them. “Freedom Fighter” makes an attempt to change the mood with a serious topic. It’s a 1980s-influenced rocker that reminds me just a little bit of some of Neil Young’s harder rocking stuff. But then you’ve got the fact that it’s about a cause du jour (Joseph Kony) and features backing vocals by Johnny Depp. “Something” opens with a big organ flourish and has much more bluesy grit than found on the rest of the record. Perry’s licks are down and dirty and his vocals are not impeccably polished like Tyler ’s, and by the end of it, I’m wondering if I wouldn’t rather have a Joe Perry solo record.
While there are a few really bad songs, for the most part Music from Another Dimension, is a middle-of-the-road, vanilla affair. There’s nothing particularly wrong with songs like “Luv XXX” or “Oh Yeah.” They’re even enjoyable in the right frame of mind. But there’s nothing particularly interesting about them, either. They sound a bit like a cross between Get a Grip and Just Push Play. “Beautiful,” despite a little stomp at the start, loses me a on Tyler’s rap-like verse delivery, and the chorus reminds me just a little too much of Just Push Play’s “Beyond Beautiful.” The repetitive refrain of “Lover Alot” has worn out its welcome by the time the song really gets started, and it’s not anything special after that.
And could we squeeze in another ballad somewhere? What are there, like eight on this record? And trust me, there’s nothing that remotely approaches “Dream On,” “Seasons of Wither” or “Home Tonight.” The only one that’s even moderately interesting is album closer “Another Last Goodbye.” The song mixes a piano line that’s a shameless nod to “Dream On” with some orchestral sounds and Beatles influence. Tyler does have some nice falsetto pieces, though he occasionally goes over the top as he’s wont to do, and there are at least shades of their ’70s selves here and there in it. The rest of the ballads are just pretty generic versions of the ones they’ve been doing for the last 25 years or so. I was particularly disappointed with “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” which features Carrie Underwood, because I’ve heard she and Tyler do a few rockers where they sounded pretty good together.
Far from a reinvention, Music from Another Dimension is more of a rehashing of ideas and themes from some of the band’s weakest records. Of the 15 tracks, only a couple are really good, a couple more at least interesting, and the rest, sadly, pretty much what I expected. It’s an OK record, but won’t make my year-end list, and that’s saying something when it comes to me and Aerosmith. Maybe the next 11 years will bring something better.