Janie, put away the gun.
Just when you thought the long-jawed bad boys had riff-rolled their last train and caterwauled their last power ballad, Aerosmith pulls together a credible comeback album. Nobody foresaw it; good Lord, few even wanted it. But a few song doctors, a blast-from-the-past producer and one Pro Tools wonder-boy have resurrected a corporate-rock corpse. Sound the bells and mount the tour, hoss – the Sweet Emotion singers ride again.
Anybody who saw the busted-up mug of singer Steven Tyler a year ago – he fell in a shower, he said, and it was at least true that he was plenty washed up – would have thought the raspy 64-year-old had retired to the soft gig of American Idol appraisal.
The Boston quintet’s previous album was an unmemorable disc of blues covers, the unfortunately titled Honkin’ on Bobo from 2004. The last effort of new material was, you remember … no, you don’t remember. It was 2001’s Just Push Play.
Back to 2012, this new album was preceded by a knock-off of an old hit: The lead single Legendary Child is the child of Shut up and Dance, from 1993. And the album itself, available Nov. 6, begins with a silly sci-fi conceit. Back-on-board Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas time-warps in from the 1970s, voicing over a headphone-friendly intro: “You are about to enter a great adventure, and experience the awe and mystery, from your ultimate fantasies to your deepest fears…”
Your deepest fears. Then the snare drums kick in, the band begins a rattle and roar, and Tyler introduces Aerosmith with an Ozzy-toned leer: “Hello, hello, come on, come on, come over.” Perry’s sleazy guitar is from the seventies, Tyler’s chorus is from the eighties and the theme of Luv XXX is a lusty, daisy-haired comment from the sixties: Make love instead of war, and do it three times per day. “It’s in our DNA,” asserts Tyler, more of a jive-turkey than a social anthropologist.
What follows is a mix of wounded ballads and semi-melodic rockers, with a few blatant Beatlisms and that Tao of Tyler rhyme-happy wisdom thrown in. Its stylistic dimensions stretch the length of Aerosmith’s career. The song structures often seem cut and pasted but that is what will have to pass for inspiration in a band motivationally exhausted for quite some time. Lover Alot heaves and chugs hard – a throw-forward from the band’s Last Child early days. The radio-friendly Can’t Stop Loving You features country darling Carrie Underwood singing that “the world needs more of this.”
We’ve seen Aerosmith cry before.
They do so again on What Could Have Been Love, a generic tear-jerker.
One imagines Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell are pleased with the cowbell quotient of Out Go the Lights. The grand brooding of Closer, about distance, readies itself for concert stages. Closer, a winning slowie written by the much-trophied pop composer Dianne Warren, sounds nothing like Aerosmith.
Something appropriates a Bond-theme chord progression before settling into a hazy-wiry blues whomp about divisions of wealth. When Joe Perry sings “I made you a dollar, you gave me a quarter,” young major-label bands can only shake their heads and wonder where they can get lucky with such a deal.
The too-long 68-minute thing closes with a piano-set weeper, the overwrought Another Last Goodbye with too much screeching crescendo and an audacious swipe of McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home’s backing vocals.
Another last goodbye, but this is no exit from Aerosmith. An expensively-made album sets them up for years of sunset-riding. Saddle up and yippee ki-yay, sure thing.
MORE NEW RELEASES
Deer Creek Canyon
- Sera Cahoone
- Sub Pop
- Three stars
“Deer Creek Canyon is where I am from; and it’s where you are still.” That from the under-heard Seattle singer-songwriter Sera Cahoone, her voice stoic and bittersweet in the way of Neko Case, Stevie Nicks or Sineed O’Connor. Lyrics, set to an autumnal soundtrack of acoustic strums, steel guitars and banjos sometimes portray helplessness, weariness, restlessness and hopelessness. She’d like to sing for you. She’ll bring you to where she is. Only a selfish person would let her down. – Brad Wheeler
- The Luyas
- Paper Bag
- Three and a half stars
This is the Montreal mood-swingers’ third album, and it is an art-pop victory of synthetic instruments and bathing textures. The band’s membership has associations with Arcade Fire, Miracle Fortress and Bell Orchestra but the Luyas share no stylistic affiliation with biggest of those three troupes. Singer Jessie Stein is at the centre of an interstellar swirl – something of a sweeter Emily Haines on The Quiet Way, a Floydian space-rock trip. She wishes to bring us into her dreams. The invitation is nothing to sleep on. – B.W.
- Swedish House Mafia
- Four stars
The Swedish House Mafia are pretty much that, a cartel of Swedish DJs specializing in house music. Fist-pumping, club-rocking, pop-savvy house music, that is, all heroic synths, thumping kick drum, and an occasional quiet bit that makes the big, throbbing refrain seem all the more ecstatic upon its reprise. It’s a formula they apply with equal success to conventional club-style vocals, such as Tinie Tempeh’s Miami to Ibiza, and pop hits, like Coldplay’s Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall. The album comes in two flavours: a just-the-hits version, and a deluxe package for those who want remixes. Either way, mob hits have never been this fun. – J.D. Considine
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: La Finta Giardiniera
- Freiburger Barockorchester, conducted by Réné Jacobs
- Harmonia mundi
- Three and a half stars
While it’s hard to warm to a jealous hero who stabs his wife and brays about his family tree, Mozart’s youthful La Finta Giardiniera has an exuberant score. La Finta Giardiniera received only three performances in 1775, but Réné Jacobs has recorded a later, re-orchestrated version that was produced in Prague five years after the composer’s death. Scholars are still divided as to whether or not Mozart was involved in the new orchestration. We’ve read about this opera for years: What a treat to finally hear it. – Elissa Poole