AEROSMITH: PUMP (1989)
1) Young Lust; 2) F.I.N.E.; 3) Going Down / Love In An Elevator; 4) Monkey On My Back; 5) Water Song / Janie's Got A Gun; 6) Dulcimer Stomp / The Other Side; 7) My Girl; 8) Don't Get Mad, Get Even; 9) Hoodoo / Voodoo Medicine Man; 10) What It Takes.
As promised, the vacation goes on. The only difference between Pump and its progenitor is that the last traces of creativity and freshness have been expertly removed from the final product, ensuring even greater commercial success. The record sets new standards of slickness which, true to their competitive nature, the band would then raise with every new studio album.
Everything is loud, roaring, catchy, and guaranteed to keep the customer satisfied. Intelligent defenders of the album frequently point out that it does stand out from the average hair metal record of the day, because, like it or not, Perry and Whitford are still masters of their instruments, and both gentlemen honestly try to come up with twisted, sleazy, funky riffs and honest bluesy solos. Remove the pop choruses, break through the glossy sheen of the production, they say, and you will still see the same old gritty Aerosmith rockin' out like there was no tomorrow, no matter how many Desmond Childs there are in the studio ensuring that there be plenty of tomorrows, and that each such tomorrow bring in a sizable check in the mail.
As a matter of fact, I absolutely agree. Play Pump back to back with all them Bon Jovi and Def Leppard albums, and you will immediately notice what difference there is between a hair-metal album from a new-generation hair-metal band and a hair-metal album from an old-style Seventies blues-rock band. Faced between these two monsters, I will undoubtedly sacrifice my ears to the Scylla of Pump than the Charybdis of New Jersey or Hysteria (which should, generally, be understood as simply preferring the old school to the new school rather than a direct slap-in-the-face for these particular albums — hey, Def Leppard is a guilty pleasure if there ever was one).
But we are talking Aerosmith in the context of Aerosmith, and in the context of Aerosmith, 'The Other Side' and 'Monkey On My Back' is as dull as they come. Most of this blends together into one never-ending mess of monotonous riffage (again — it may not formally be monotonous, but Fairbairn's production smoothes out all the edges; even when Perry is playing something interesting, he makes sure to overdub another guitar on top of it which is not playing anything interesting), screaming for the sake of screaming, and big dumb drum patterns that sound louder than everything else put together. In fact, in between the drums and Tyler's throat-tearing, everything else just sort of gets lost.
The big hits were 'Love In An Elevator' and 'Janie's Got A Gun'. The former is credited to Tyler and Perry alone, as they are trying to outdo Mötley Crüe without outside help, and come up with a catchy, fun, but gruesomely inadequate sex anthem, sending elevated society into a state of shock with its accounts of making out you-know-where. Overdone, overplayed, and rather pitiful, it's hardly the worst thing they ever did, but one cannot even call it «self-parody» — in the past, they sang about sex, not about silly sexual fetishes flashing in dirty old minds. How come they never realized — or, if they did realize, how come they were never disturbed by the fact — that this ongoing sexual bravado simply made them all into show-biz clowns?
'Janie's Got A Gun' belatedly returns us to the field of «social relevance». The girl gets raped by her own father and then pulls a gun on him. This can be cutting edge. But as it sits there in the middle of all these dumb sexual anthems, it ceases to be cutting edge and becomes a musical tabloid — somewhat like the Stones' 'Too Much Blood' or any other song whose author will probably defend it as «an attempt to draw public attention to important social issues», when in reality it is simply one more application of the «give the people what they want» principle. Rape, pedophilia, and murder — all in one bag! Cool. Let's make it a hit single. At least it's a half-decent pop song (notice, too, how it borrows the alarm siren thing from 'Kings And Queens').
I have, and can have, no personal favorites on Pump. 'Voodoo Medicine Man' could theoretically have gotten my hopes up — why couldn't they justify the title by turning the song into another Southernish romp like 'Hangman Jury'? — but it's just another slab of similar hair-metal. 'Young Lust' raves along at a fast pace, but what's the point if the stylistics is just the same? 'What It Takes' is not the awfulest ballad to disgrace the name of Aerosmith, but it is still a power ballad that takes the aesthetics of 'Home Tonight' and turns it into a big lump of melodic and lyrical clichés.
To reiterate the obvious, Pump is a step down even from the standards of Permanent Vacation. Never mind the experimentation of 'St. John', there are even no traces of light funny funk à la 'Rag Doll', for which 'Janie's Got A Gun' is no acceptable substitute. "Going down, Mr. Tyler?" You bet your ass he is, and taking the whole band with him. Thumbs down.