AEROSMITH: DONE WITH MIRRORS (1985)
1) Let The Music Do The Talking; 2) My Fist, Your Face; 3) Shame On You; 4) The Reason A Dog; 5) Sheila; 6) Gypsy Boots; 7) She's On Fire; 8) The Hop; 9) Darkness.
Unfortunately, the momentum was lost. The world had already shown a clear lack of interest in the old Aerosmith sound through the diminishing sales of Rock In A Hard Place, and then three years of complete studio silence finished the job. With hair metal on the rise, capturing the market niche formerly occupied by trashy Seventies' rockers, Aerosmith had to adapt — sacrificing their integrity — or to fade away to the status of a small cult band. It is our big luck, then, that in 1985 their minds were still too clouded by substances for them to see it properly.
Of course, Done With Mirrors is no longer the Aerosmith of old. Much of the fault lies with the outside circumstances: having signed a new contract with Geffen Records instead of the old
Fellow reviewer Mark Prindle couldn't have stated it better when he mentioned that, all over Done With Mirrors, «the guitars sound like walls, not like the electrical currents and loose wires of classic Aerosmith». But is this really Joe Perry's fault? The old boy is definitely trying, and, even though only a few riffs are memorable (generally at the beginning of the album), with a little more care this could have been another Draw The Line. But when the guitars are flattened and splattered, muted and muffled, hidden under pillows, glossed and glued together as if someone were afraid that people would laugh at Joe's obvious lack of virtuoso technique — quite possible to expect of a producer guy whose main protégé was Eddie Van Halen — you know that the Eighties are upon us indeed.
Granted, it could have been much worse. The drums could have been reduced to electronic pulp, instead of simply made to sound pompously big and non-rock'n'rollish. There could have been a synthesizer invasion, but the record is mostly keyboard-free. All of the songs are self-penned, and the ballads are pretty much non-existent (with a little effort, one could call 'Darkness' a ballad, but certainly not when it picks up tempo). The choruses are catchy (with a few exceptions, such as Brad Whitford's 'The Reason A Dog', which seems to me about as underwritten as its title), Tyler is in his usual vocal form — so perhaps we'd better just get over the sad deal with the production and count this as another solid offering from the band?
Perhaps, except that there is a clear, if subtle, change in the agenda. On Rock In A Hard Place, the agenda still went something like «don't mess with the bad boys of rock'n'roll»; here, it is «you may not believe this, but we are still the bad boys of rock'n'roll». "Nobody gonna get my rock'n'roll", Tyler screams on 'Shame On You' — hmm, was there any doubt about that in the first place around 1977? And what's with all the self-quoting? "Back in the saddle gets you sore" ('My Fist, Your Face')? References to Aerosmith and Joe Perry in 'The Hop'? Even musical quotations — when 'Let The Music Do The Talking', a re-recording of the best song from Perry's short solo career, starts the record off with a bang, it's like all the problems never happened, but then all of a sudden it goes into the riff of 'Draw The Line' for a few bars, and you realize, with fright, that this little bit kicks much more ass than the rest of the song. That's when you know, for sure, that the band's golden days are properly over.
And yet, let us be fair. Together with Rock In A Hard Place, this album has pretty much slipped through the cracks of the public conscience and the critical appreciation. People have a strange habit of associating the goodness of Aerosmith with chart positions and total revenue: for most listeners, these were the «dark years» for the drugged-out band, steadily on the decline ever since chemicals began to get the better of them around 1977 and then beginning to «come back» ten years later. But the «comeback» was actually just a change of master — freed from the iron rule of drugs, the band sold themselves to fashion.
Done With Mirrors may not be a very good record, a sharp quality drop-off from the former level, but there is no doubt that, at this point, Aerosmith were still doing what they wanted to do. Their tragedy was that no one else wanted them to do it — and that they could not get over it, and so their heart was not perfect with rock'n'roll their God, and Aerosmith did evil in the sight of rock'n'roll, and went not fully after rock'n'roll, wherefore it was said unto Aerosmith, «surely will rock'n'roll be rended from thee, and given to thy betters». But all that was still a couple of years away; Done With Mirrors, in the meantime, may be threatened with a thumbs down for the execution (including the rather silly gimmick of the «mirrored» writing on the sleeve), but still gets a thumbs up for the effort.