Fans of Aerosmith are pretty heavily divided into two groups: fans of the ’70s-era, grungy, bluesy Aerosmith and fans of the ’90s-era, power-balled, “that song from Armageddon” Aerosmith. Unfortunately, in their newest album, “Music from Another Dimension” (which really should have just been named “Music from Another Era”) tries to play to both camps, leaving everyone unsatisfied.
When the music leans more toward the ’70s, the songs jive and capture that good-time feel that even occasionally gives listeners a glimmer of classic “Toys In The Attic” Aerosmith. When it leans towardsthe ’90s, well, there are power ballads. Many, many power ballads. Not all of which are bad — they’re slow and syrupy sweet, as tends to be desired in that genre. However, there are far too many of them, and it ends up feeling a little like too much sugar, not enough substance. It leaves the album feeling uncohesive and disappointing to all but the most casual fans.
The gems of the album are almost immediately identifiable — a few seconds of a rollicking riff and you can just tell that you’re in for a good time. “Out Go the Lights” might be nearly seven minutes long, but the bluesy barroom feel keeps it from going stale, and the overlay of guitarist Joe Perry’s smoother vocals over lead singer Steven Tyler’s typical shredded tones creates a thrilling performance. Even the outrageously long play time feels short when several minutes are dedicated to Perry’s guitar solo.
Another shockingly long but phenomenal addition to the album is “Street Jesus.” It’s a clear attempt at another “Toys in the Attic,” but it works. It has the impact of a freight train, and Tyler’s syntax is particularly phenomenal in this song. It’s the money-shot for any fan of the rough-and-tumble Aerosmith of days gone by.
If you’re looking for some catchy riffs and repetitive lyrics, look no further than “Lover Alot.” This one also pulls out the contrast between Perry and Tyler’s vocals, and the result is just as effective as the first time they used it. The chorus is basic, but the verses are fairly intricate and the entire thing feels like a party.
However, the album wasn’t all gold for fans of the rougher side of Aerosmith. There were love ballads a plenty, and while they were generally good (as far as these songs go), they felt so out of place with the rock-based side of the album that it occasionally felt like listening to another band. “What Could Have Been,” in particular, is a typical “inspiration song” just dying for a movie montage a la “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
However, the worst travesty of the album is probably “Can’t Stop Loving You,” a duet with Carrie Underwood. If that combination didn’t surprise you, then it’s surprising you’re listening to an Aerosmith album. The track felt a little country heavy, though not enough to appeal to Underwood’s typical fan base, and was a bit of a cheesy mess overall. What’s really the worst part, though, is the constant reminder of Tyler’s stint as an “American Idol” judge. For all his poor life choices, that one really takes the cake.
When the album is good, it’s great. It’s a flashback to what made fans fall in love with the band. But when it’s power-ballad bad, it’s a flashback to what made you fall in love with that weird guy in high school. By trying to please everyone, the album thrills no one. If there’s another “reunion album,” perhaps the band will learn from this experience.
Howard is a member of the class of 2013.