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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Aerosmith: Rock In A Hard Place


1) Jailbait; 2) Lightning Strikes; 3) Bitch's Brew; 4) Bolivian Ragamuffin; 5) Cry Me A River; 6) Prelude To Joa­nie; 7) Joanie's Butterfly; 8) Rock In A Hard Place; 9) Jig Is Up; 10) Push Comes To Shove.

With Brad Whitford leaving the band no sooner than the start of the recording session for their next album, replaced by newcomer Rick Dufay, Rock In A Hard Place, informally, could be regarded as a solo Steve Tyler album masking as an Aerosmith production. But it shouldn't. For all its flaws, and it got some, it is, most undoubtedly so, a proper Aerosmith record; in fact, in a certain important sense, it is the last proper Aerosmith record.

Clearly, the new-look band, now under Tyler's unwavering rule (wavered only in direct pro­por­tion to the consumed cocaine), were trying to pull their act together and steer away from the total chaotic jumble of the last two records. There is a slightly higher level of coherence to the tracks, a slightly more calculated approach to riffs and melodies, and a slightly improved attitude towards experimenting with new sounds. However, for the most part, they still fail to straighten out the mess, and thank God for that — we need this band as smelly and sleazy as they can get.

The single was 'Lightning Strikes', a modernized rock song opening with a silly synth intro — be­ca­use if Queen themselves deemed it unsuitable to enter the new decade without undergoing key­boardial defloration, how could the rest not follow suit? Fortunately, the silly sounds evaporate fairly quickly, leaving us with a kick-ass rock'n'roller (the only one on the album that still has Brad Whitford playing rhythm). 'Jailbait' was not a single — maybe the title was deemed too pro­voking — but is even better, bringing Tyler's sexual urges to the hardest boil in Aerosmith histo­ry: fast, screamy, agonizing, punctured by a simplistic, but insane descending riff that culminates with a "ja-a-a-a-ail... BAIT!" — Tyler's vivid impression of himself as a hungry shark making a swipe at the nearest 15-year old. Excellent way to satisfy your inner pedophile (which we all have inside, or we would not be listening to Aerosmith in the first place).

The rest of the album's rockers are not up to those standards, but the general sound is the same: Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay do not match the drunken hooliganry of Joe Perry and the imagi­native powers of Brad Whitford, but they can definitely understand what is the Aerosmith sound and what is not. We can all try to imagine just how differently would, say, 'Cheshire Cat' have sounded with the old guys on guitars, but we can hardly say that, as it is, it does not sound mean, ballsy, and aggressive.

The non-rockers are shaky, but still a far cry from the power ballad swamp of years to come: 'Cry Me A River' is an old torch song that fails to capture the same level of intensity and desperation that the band had managed to attain with 'Remember'; 'Joanie's Butterfly' is a really bizarre art-pop song, one of the most enigmatic creations in Aerosmith history that will be either genius or garbage to you no matter how hard you try to keep the middle ground; and the anthemic closer 'Push Comes To Sho­ve' is nearly destroyed by Tyler's ridiculous decision to sing the chorus in his highest range (a.k.a. « The Way I Sing While They Are Slowly Sawing Away At My Throat Ar­teries»). No masterpieces, but nothing intolerable, either.

For all the negative press the record got in its time and continues to get (yeah, because only the inimitable twin magic of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford can bring worth to such Aerosmith master­pieces as the rock'n'roll guitar monster 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing') I can only hope that, in time, Rock In A Hard Place will get its proper respect as an album that is better — okay, almost better — than all of the band's subsequent career put together. This is the very last time you get to hear the Bad Boys truly play it «Bad». No more no more. Thumbs up, and a big thank you to Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay who did their best to prolong the existence of the true Aerosmith spirit by a few more years.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, if Jailbait is fast, then Judas Priest, Iron Maiden (not that I like that band), not to mention the soon arising speed metal bands specialized in slow stuff ....
    This midtempo rocksong has a nice chaotic feel.