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Aerosmith – Rocks [Album Review]

March 9, 2012

Back in the Saddle / Last Child Rats in the Cellar / Combination / Sick As a Dog / Nobody’s Fault / Get the Lead Out / Lick and a Promise / Home Tonight

1976. A bit of a strange year. The year of harmless soft-rock gems like Hotel CaliforniaBostonThe PretenderFrampton Comes Alive and Steely Dan’s insanely underrated The Royal Scam. While the most people were still feasting on the remains of thebloated ’70’s excess (the hard rock and prog greats who reigned five years before were all experiencing a decline), there were quite a few worthwhile albums released  this that decade that  rocked with a vengeance, and I’m not just talking about RAMONES one hit song style wonders. I’m talking about Judas Priest’s terrific Sad Wings of Destiny, Thin Lizzy’s essential Jailbreak and also Rocks by Boston’s finest, who got one last stab at greatness and would be trampled from 1977 onwards by a bunch of ugly Australians who took the ‘rock’ to even greater heights *cough cough* Anyway, Rocks is an excellent album that deserves its title exactly because it truly lives up to it. It doesn’t sound as good as Toys in the Attic to speak but (the murky guitar sound is alright,  the drums just don’t sound nearly as natural),you could then say that it isn’t as much fun and hasn’t got highlights like “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion,” but in its own perverse way, it might be the most consistently rocking batch of songs the band ever delivered. Granted, there are a few songs that are hardly above average (I know it’s got some nifty guitar shredding, but no one’s gonna convince me that “Combination” should be lauded – the vocals are just too bland and repetitive for Tylers range and the song doesn’t go anywhere; while “Get the Lead Out” is struttin’ Aerosmith down to a tea. it’s got the rock, but not the roll it’s aiming for), but stuff like the first three tracks? Degenerate rock ‘n’ roll, almost as good as it gets. I mean, only Aerosmith could pull off something like the heavy rock of “Back in the Saddle” with its neighing horses and galloping percussion. At times, Tyler’s shrieking (the repeated “I’m back” and – especially – “Ridin’ hiiiiiiiiiiiggghhh”) is nearly cringe-inducing, but it’s supported by great riffing that makes one a bit more tolerant – even tolerant enough to forgive the rather directionless last minute of the song. The moment I heard “Last Child” for the first time, I thought ” oh Jesus, already a ballad!?” but there’s no need to panic, as the band tears into its funkiest strut since “Walk This Way” (and nothing after it comes even close), a strut that’s also a dead-ringer for Ian Dury’s “Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll.” It’s followed by the almost breakneck speed of “Rats in the Cellar,” a vicious take of a twisted love child of “Toys in the Attic”-and-“Train Kept A-Rollin’,” the kind of stuff the all hailed Guns ‘n Roses could’ve come up with on a good day. Even though the album’s second half is no match for the first string of songs, it boasts one of the band’s classics with the dark and heavy “Nobody’s Fault,” which features some of Tyler’s best and original vocal performances and a drive that crushes everything on its way. Apart from the first three songs and “Nobody’s Fault,” there are no cuts that could’ve been contenders, but none of them qualifies as filler: as said above, “Combination” and “Get the Lead Out” are rather average songs, but they would’ve been highlights on most of the band’s later albums. The almost-pop of “Sick of a Dog” is hard to resist and boasts one of the band’s catchiest choruses, “Lick and a Promise” is one of those adrenalin-charged barn-burning boogies we all grown to love from aerosmith (with slightly silly “Naanaanaanaanaaaaa”-parts) and “Home Tonight” ends the album with theTOTALLY UNEXPECTED power ballad. Again, when I’m in a bad mood, this kind of drivel makes me wanna throw jars of apple sauce from the balcony (I’m living on the fourth floor), but under normal circumstances I’ll keep it simple with a near-unintelligible “Well, at least they could pull it off.” Deservedly less lauded/popular than Toys in the Attic (over here at least, even though I presume that ’90’s Aerosmith is even more familiar to most ears), Rocks nevertheless was a fine chapter that reminded you of the band’s talent before they gradually declined and – like much of their competition – became a machine (instead of a band that thrived on earlier accomplishments.

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