Tyler’s Vocals Salvage Confused and Heavyhanded Effort
Aerosmith--Music From Another Dimension!--Columbia--2 1/2 STARS
Aerosmith has been a well-loved name in music for 40 years. With 14 records, they hold hold two Billboard number-one albums, four Grammys, and ten MTV Video music awards. As their impeccable record clearly states, Aerosmith would be considered a pantheonic rock band even if they never produced another record. But, after an eight-year hiatus, they’re back to attempt to prove themselves once again in “Music From Another Dimension!” In looking to combine their distinct classic-rock style with the newer, alternative direction popular in rock music today, Aerosmith gives a good effort. While Steven Tyler’s prowess in expressing emotion is impressive, the disjointed production in a majority of the songs makes the album confusing and overwhelming as a whole.
“Music From Another Dimension” shows Aerosmith trying too hard to stay relevant in their hasty adoption of newer musical styles. In “Street Jesus,” the intro guitar riff, with its bluesy, staccato edginess, sounds more like The White Stripes than what we are used to hearing from Aerosmith. This intro is immediately faded out with a synthetic whine weirdly reminiscent of Skrillex, and the song transforms into a quicker and more classic rock sound, with heavier instrumentation and darker, more raspy vocals. Their attempt to mesh the distinctly different eras is laudable, but fails in its shoddy execution—the result is more confusion than modernization.
This confusion characterizes the album’s flow as well, as the drastic changes in style and sound between the songs tend to overwhelm. While many songs such as “Beautiful,” “Out Go the Lights,” and “Luv XXX” are similar in pace and energy to that of “Street Jesus,” randomly interspersed genre tributes seem helplessly out of place. “Can’t Stop Loving You,” featuring Carrie Underwood, turns to country. In the chorus, Tyler seems to force the twang to come out in the song, making the song feel like a bad parody of country music. “Another Last Goodbye,” the album’s final track, is a ballad that features a slow and somber piano. While a gut-busting guitar solo towards the song’s climax would be welcomed, as it was in the 1987 classic “Angel,” the band instead replaces it with a folksy and emotional violin solo. This addition feels clumsy and makes the song feel stranded from the rest of the album.
Despite the disconcerting aspects of the production and the songs themselves, the talent that Tyler displays in this album is absolutely undeniable. Even when compared to the screech that made him famous in “Dream On” in 1973, these vocals from the 64 year-old have certainly withstood the test of time. In “We All Fall Down,” the heavy-handed production that characterizes most of the rest of the album is relaxed to a soft piano and a quiet and perfectly placed guitar riff, which together allow Tyler to subtly but surely build up his vocals in the verse. When the production stops altogether, creating a moment of tension, the song begs Tyler to bust into his trademark high-pitched and powerful vocals. Sure enough, all is satisfied, as Tyler forces emotion through his buttery tone, which is combined with the perfect amount of raspiness. Toward the end of the song, after the chorus has been repeated a few times, Tyler’s power reaches its climax as he once again perfects a screech that is paradoxically abrasive and beautiful.
While the production of the songs make the majority of the album difficult to listen to, the album isn’t utterly lost. When the production, and thus the confusion, is relaxed, Steven Tyler’s utter vocal brilliance helps remind us why Aerosmith has seen so much success.