AEROSMITH: TOYS IN THE ATTIC (1975)
1) Toys In The Attic; 2) Uncle Salty; 3) Adam's Apple; 4) Walk This Way; 5) Big Ten Inch Record; 6) Sweet Emotion; 7) No More No More; 8) Round And Round; 9) You See Me Crying.
Had Aerosmith never written or played one other song next to 'Toys In The Attic', it should still have been enough to ensure rock immortality — not everyone realizes that, of course, but let me be the first to tell you. Not all blues-rock played at breakneck speed can be breathtaking, and, as a rule, blues-rockers dislike playing at breakneck speed, either out of fear of making too many mistakes or because they somehow feel that the notes would not be «felt properly». Fools!
If there is any direct predecessor to 'Toys In The Attic', it might be Zep's 'Communication Breakdown' or Deep Purple's 'Fireball', but I have always felt 'Toys' to be the better song of the three. As Joe Perry's rough, broken-up, don't-give-a-damn riff breaks out of the speakers, it combines the speed and precision of those two with the tattered and battered Keith Richards spirit, and this unique combination, to the best of my knowledge, has never been improved upon. That single second when, out of a bunch of cymbal hiss, there erupts Perry's distortion, is the single greatest moment in Aerosmith history, bar none.
Let us not forget, either, that the song's riff is only one good thing about it. Tyler expropriates it for another of his «message» songs about connections between past and present, this time, painting nostalgia as horror — "voices scream... nothing's seen... real's the dream..." — and culminating with the ghost chorus of "toys, toys, toys in the attic" that, on paper, may seem like an unlikely mating pair for the song's brutal riff, but, on practice, merges with it to form the perfect psychedelic experience. Somehow, even Perry's frantic guitar break, all
The album certainly does not live up to the strength of its opener — unsurprisingly, since such openers are generally granted one or two per an entire band's career. But Aerosmith were on a roll all the same. They had found their style: a synthesis of the Stones' rebellious spirit with the achievements of hard rock and heavy metal bands of the past five years, and they were still fresh enough to explore that style's capacities to the very bottom.
Toys In The Attic does it all. It kicks ass all over the place, it threatens, it humours, and it is never boring. A few of the songs want to be boring ('No More No More'; Brad Whitford's 'Round And Round') by putting too much stock in repetition, but are still saved by the sweet sweet spirit that inhabits them — Tyler, in particular, delivers every song as if he were living it out at the exact same moment, and, considering the unique quality of his voice, this alone suffices to neutralize the repetitiveness, or even turn it to his own advantage.
On the other end of the pole, there are the additional classics. 'Walk This Way' is still unkillable by classic rock radio after all these years (the single great thing about «bad boy anthems»: it is ten times as hard to get sick of them as it is to get sick of 'Hey Jude' or 'Stairway To Heaven'), and the original version is still a much tastier vintage than the not-less-famous, but much-more-pragmatic remake with Run-D.M.C. from the next decade. (On an indirectly related note,
At the center of the pole we find another bunch of moderate classics, including Genesis According To Aerosmith ('Adam's Apple'); the joke throwaway cover 'Big Ten Inch Record', where Tyler improves on the double-entendres by making the line "...she don't go for nothin' 'cept for my big ten-inch record..." sound exactly like "...suck on my big ten-inch..."; and the obligatory closing ballad 'You See Me Crying', which tugs at certain non-trivial strings in your heart just like the Stones could, at their best, tug at them with ballads like 'Moonlight Mile'.
The worst problem with Aerosmith is that much of the time, given their past record of «Stones worship» and their future record of selling out, it is hard to take them seriously. Toys In The Attic fires off a brief, but magical, period in their career when — once you forget all context — it is hard not to take them seriously. In 1975, Steve Tyler was the troubadour of the slum party style, far grittier and more cutting edge than Bruce Springsteen, and Joe Perry was his guitar partner extraordinaire. The celebration did not last too long, but for two or three brief years, the band did become the undisputed kings of «shit-rock», in the good sense of the term. Thumbs up.