Returning with what might well be their last album, Aerosmith clearly want to go out on a high by reminding everyone of what it was that once made them a truly exciting band. The problem is that the very things that made them exciting – the drugs, the booze, the women, the fights – are long gone and the things that they do indulge in are not consumed in such gargantuan quantities any more. Steven Tyler himself alludes to this problem on Out Go The Lights, when he sings “giving up the women and whiskey, you ain’t got nothing at all”. Take away the things that feed the Aerosmith machine and you’re left with a rather hollow experience.
In fact, Out Go The Lights is a perfect distillation of everything that’s good, and appalling, about present day Aerosmith. On the one hand, there’s the main slinky blues riff that could well have been plucked from any of the band’s finer moments. Clearly Joe Perry can still lay down a seriously wicked lick when he’s so inclined. On the verses, Tyler’s innuendo ridden vocals are quickly spat out. Yet when it comes to the chorus, everything goes a little polished, poptastic and ultimately, limp. This truly is the sound of a band pulling in two opposing directions. It also doesn’t help that the band refuses to let the song die, insisting on a pointless coda that ensures that it stays well beyond its welcome.
It’s the trade off between the old ’70s styled Aerosmith and the band’s late ’80s and ’90s material that hamstrings much of Music From Another Dimension. Legendary Child is another perfect example. Tyler recycles the lyrics of Walk This Way early on, reminding everyone of what a great band they were, but also opts to omit “fuck” for a rhyming couplet, replacing it with an “oooh woah oooh” instead. Admittedly on other tracks Tyler is quite happy dropping the odd F-Bomb, but missing it out here seems to highlight what’s happened to Aerosmith over the years. The killer riffs are still there, but the band that didn’t give a fuck has been replaced by a band that doesn’t give a sanitised “oooh woah oooh”.
Of course anybody following Aerosmith over the years will not be in the least bit surprised to find the band treading the line between Rock and Pop; they’ve been doing it with varying degrees of success since Permanent Vacation back in 1987. When it works, such as on Love In An Elevator, then they really hit the mark. But it’s fair to say that the mix on this album isn’t quite right. Beautiful starts as a feisty rock song, complete with Tyler’s wonderful growl. It then heads directly into anthemic Boy Band territory. The shift between styles isn’t graceful, or indeed “beautiful”, if anything, it’s clumsy and painful. If they’d stuck to one thing, it probably would have worked. As it is, it’s a mess.
Oddly enough, it’s the massive country-rock ballad of Can’t Stop Loving You that stands out head and shoulders above everything else here. A duet with American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, it finds the band back in similar territory to Crazy and Don’t Want To Miss A Thing (the band’s only Number 1) as they fully embrace their mainstream pop tendencies. The Rock purists may well disagree, but these days, Aerosmith are at their best when they’re rocking gently.
This then is an album that doesn’t quite work, being as it is constantly in a state of conflict. However, had this been released when the likes of Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue and Aerosmith themselves were straddling the world like a bunch of pomp-pop hairdressers, then it would have fitted in just fine. This is not so much Music From Another Dimension as music from another time.