AEROSMITH: GET A GRIP (1993)
1) Intro; 2) Eat The Rich; 3) Get A Grip; 4) Fever; 5) Livin' On The Edge; 6) Flesh; 7) Walk On Down; 8) Shut Up And Dance; 9) Cryin'; 10) Gotta Love It; 11) Crazy; 12) Line Up; 13) Amazing; 14) Boogie Man.
If you do not own this album, go out and buy it, now. Listen to it in your best ceremonial robe, your mind intent on prayer. Then take it out and solemnly burn it in your back yard, if you have one, or in the nearest forest, if you live near one, or, if that fails, just grind it to little pieces and flush it. Repeat said procedure each Sunday, and, provided you keep it up for at least ten years, you will undoubtedly find grace in the eyes of the Lord as well as earn gratitude undying in the eyes of your descendants the way they are pictured in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"There's something wrong with the world today, I don't know what it is", they sing in 'Livin' On The Edge'. But it is not hard to guess, really, because Get A Grip takes its time to embody pretty much everything that is wrong with the world today. It is difficult even to decide where to start. How about this: the song before that features lyrics that go "Fever gives you lust with an appetite, it hits you like the fangs from a rattlesnake bite", and the song immediately after that states that "When the night comes, everybody gotta have FLESH — the only thing that's worth the sweat". Er, I'm pretty sure few of us would abstain from having a little FLESH every now and then, but if it is really "the only thing that's worth the sweat", there must surely be something wrong with the world today, and I do know what it is.
As the «St. George» of grunge bands started hacking away at the «dragon» of hair metal, one would think that Aerosmith, of all people, might finally get their heads straight — after all, with their natural predisposition towards hardest-rock-riffage and punkish attitude, they could have followed other heroes of the past like Alice Cooper in rejecting the Bon Jovi aesthetics and re-setting a fine example for the kids. Instead, they hardened their hearts and came out as defenders of that aesthetics against the grunge wave. The risk paid off. Get A Grip sold almost as many copies as Nevermind, became the band's best-selling album ever, and solidified the basis for «MTV Rock» for years to come, plunging the brains of millions of teenagers worldwide into a hedonistic coma whose end, even today, is nowhere in sight.
Get A Grip is a thoroughly evil album — easily in my Top 10 Most Evil Albums Ever Recorded — and, although I am well aware that this is just a convenient symbol, the symbolism is just too overbearing so as not to merit a little verbal pathos. One of the most ironic aspects of its evil is that it's catchy: with the corporate songwriting machine continuing its run, most of the songs contain hooks that are exceedingly hard to get out of your head. But what are these hooks? Mostly the same trashy pop choruses, tolerable, perhaps, if steeped in moderation, irritating if molded as pseudo-rebellious anthems.
Embarrassment jumps sky high already with the first track. Musically, 'Eat The Rich' is a poor man's 'Walk This Way' (it even starts out with a brief quote from the song), whose main vocal melody (verse) also has the nerve to rip off Zappa's 'Trouble Every Day' (a transparently obvious observation which, for some reason, I have never met stated elsewhere). Lyrically, it is exactly what its title suggests: a primitive diatribe against rich people. Uh... excuse me, Mr. Tyler, may I take a peep at your latest tax declaration form? Oh, that's right: you only go heavy on "rich folks who get rude", and you "believe in rags to riches", so you're only rambling against those who have not earned their right to yacht clubs and poodles and pills. Oh, excuse me, and here I was thinking that, perhaps, you were sort of poking fun at your own attire the way it looks on you in the opening bits of the 'Love In An Elevator' video. How silly of me. And when you tell me that "you gotta live large, gotta let it rip" in the very next song, you obviously do not mean that "you gotta live large" may surmise poodles and yacht clubs. You probably mean it just surmises having FLESH — the only thing that's worth a sweat. My, my.
Get A Grip is, indeed, a philosophical album; almost every song has its moral. We get instructions every step of the way. How about this: 'Talk is cheap, shut up and dance / Don't get deep, shut up and dance'. If so, what is so surprising about the fact that 'there's something wrong with the world today'? And yet, there is consistency. 'If you can judge a wise man by the color of his skin, then mister you're a better man than I', Tyler adds, periphrasing the Yardbirds — that's about as deep as his understanding of the world's problems can really reach. Yes, sir, your whole life path is set out here before you. You gotta eat the rich, gotta get a grip, gotta shut up and dance, gotta love it, gotta line up, and, of course, you gotta have flesh — the only... oh, excuse me. The whole album is a veritable Bible of MTV faith.
And I have not even yet mentioned its Psalms — three power ballads that are all clumped together, with very small breaks, on the second half of the album. All were hit singles, and all introduced us to the High Priestess Alicia Silverstone, MTV's house-rebel Barbie doll of the mid-Nineties whose chief acting talent consisted of knowing how to give the finger with a dismissive glare on the face. If rumours about introducing navel piercing into mainstream culture with the video for 'Crying' are true, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised — the ludicrous idea of mass-marketed self-mutilation as the expression of «one's true self» or «rebellious attitude» ties in one hundred percent with the overall shit-aesthetics of Get A Grip. (Or was it, instead, the cow udder piercing on the album sleeve? which raises the question of the analogy between Alicia Silverstone and a domesticated quadruped, and, mind you, it is not me who is responsible).
Of course, it does not help matters much that 'Crying' and 'Crazy' are more or less the same song (the only big difference is that the first one has brass where the second one has harmonica... oh, wait, the first one has harmonica, too, never mind...), and that both satisfy the stereotype of the big bad hairy power ballad to a tee.
Words cannot express the way I hate this album, even as I can't help but bop along to the funky instrumental break in the title track, sounding like the accompaniment to some particularly cheesy Nintendo karate simulator. Against the background of this wave after wave of cultural pollution, only Joe Perry's 'Walk On Down' sounds like a vague, vague reminder of this band's fabulous past, and only makes the pill more bitter in the process. It's one thing to have your intelligence insulted by some good-for-nothing twenty-year old sucker raised on Grease and Van Halen, and another thing to realize that the dragon — nay, the Antichrist — of MTV culture has bought off one of the world's formerly greatest rock'n'roll bands to serve as its chief weapon of mass destruction. For what it's worth, Darth Vader has nothing on Steve Tyler. Thumbs? Can't even see where they went. Too dark, too deep.