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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aerosmith: Get Your Wings


1) Same Old Song And Dance; 2) Lord Of The Thighs; 3) Spaced; 4) Woman Of The World; 5) S.O.S. (Too Bad); 6) Train Kept A-Rollin'; 7) Seasons Of Wither; 8) Pandora's Box.

No matter how high we may reinstate the value of Aerosmith in years to come, there can be no second opinion about Get Your Wings as the album that defined, explained, and firmly stated the reasons for the band's existence and asserted their individuality. In a symbolic gesture, it introdu­ced the famous Aerosmith logo and, for the first time, gave a large picture of the band in black and white, with facial expressions threatening enough to justify comparison with the famous pho­to of the Stones on their 1964 debut.

But let us no longer linger on the Stones connection. The important thing, of course, is not the photo, but musical evolution. The debut album, like we said, was mostly 'Dream On' plus a bunch of solid, but not spectacular blues-rockers. The process of getting one's wings, on the other hand, involves appropriating two musical styles: (a) sleazy, swaggery, nasty cock-rock born out of utter despisal and mockery of not just «the order», but just about every human being in existence — Aerosmith view females as disposable sex objects not because it simply pleases their hormonal system, like AC/DC, but because women are trash and deserve to be treated as such (not that the band has ever had anything against equality of the sexes — men, for them, are just as much trash); (b) dark, dense, uncomfortable, provocative art-rock that involves mutilating the blues-rock idiom until it bleeds enough to resemble the highly convoluted self-expression of progressive artists of the day, but still retains its rootsy core so as not to offend future generations of Jethro Tull-hating rock critics (and, also, because none of the band members ever could, or, in fact, cared about mas­tering the complex techniques of prog).

Sometimes both directions are captured at the same time. For instance, 'Lord Of The Thighs' is one of the band's most distinctive sleaze anthems, whose point it is to insinuate that mating with the heavenly beauty of Steve Tyler is, in fact, the primary duty of every respectable woman. (Another version has it that he is impersonating a pimp looking for fresh recruits). But what's up with the weird thudding bassline and its being doubled by Tyler's piano? Why does a simple cock rock song need all the creepy guitar effects and spaced-out vocal howls? And why the concealed Golding reference (it is a Golding reference, isn't it)? This is ritualistic pagan mu­sic, accompanying a friggin' phallic religious ceremony, rather than a mere soundtrack for the simple pleasures of copulation.

Things are much simpler with 'S.O.S. (Too Bad)' and 'Pandora's Box', where we first have the lead singer complain about not getting any (life sucks) and then extol the bodily virtues of a lady on a nude beach (well, occasionally, life is good). Normally, the former song gets a decent repu­tation because its melody is desperate and it touches upon the sordid aspects of slum life, whereas the latter has its worse because the melody is cocky and the lyrics are worse — truth is, I believe they were written with about the same level of inspiration and both serve their purposes quite adequately. If you like Aerosmith at all, you gotta accept 'Pandora's Box', although, as Tyler sings, "I gotta watch what I say, or I'll catch hell from women's liberation" — words that ring even truer today than they did in 1974.

Things are much more complex with 'Spaced', formally about someone lost in space but metapho­rically about someone lost somewhere much closer to home; and with 'Seasons Of Wither', ano­ther epic ballad that tries to follow the medieval excursions of Led Zeppelin, but, fortunately, does not stray too far away from restrained folk balladeering. These are songs that try to find them a corner on the serious artists' market, and, although they had to bitterly fight for that corner for the rest of their career — just how many people think of Aerosmith as «serious»? — they are both good songs, especially 'Seasons' which Tyler manages to inject with plenty of stateliness.

The lead-off single was 'Same Old Song And Dance', a simple balls-to-the-wall rocker that tells you that life sucks in yet another way; but the utmost popularity, for some reason, went to the band's version of 'Train Kept A-Rollin', which is a great song but to which there was little to add after the Yardbirds truly showed the world the phenomenal aggressiveness of its riff. That aggres­siveness is perfectly recaptured by Joe Perry (in a sly fashion, they start the song off as an uncer­tain, boring shuffle, before kicking into high gear after a couple minutes), but if there is any im­provement, it is in Tyler's singing, whose creak and crunch kicks the shit out of Keith Relf (of course, considering that Keith Relf was easily the worst lead singer to front a great Sixties' band, that is not saying much per se).

So is the title telling? I guess it is. Aerosmith are being told to get their wings, and they get 'em all right, although they are still a little too inexperienced to learn how to flap them properly. With the solid material easily outweighing the undeveloped throwaways, this is unquestionably a thumbs up record — but, even so, the growth period was far from ever.

1 comment:

  1. The guitars on this one are sharp, razor sharp indeed. One can't help but wonder how much were Hunter and Wagner involved here, since the guitars on subsequent records up to Permanent Vacation kinda go back to the muddy sound of the debut. Merely in terms of sound this is their best 70's album, in terms of songwriting i can't argue with Toys and Rocks taking the prize.