Music From Another Dimension is Aerosmith’s first album in over a decade, and it’s full of ’70s hard rock riffs that reward every class of Aero-historian. Want Rocks? There’s the anxiety-volcano “Lover Alot”. Want Toys? Joe Perry’s “Street Jesus” is plucked right from the attic. Want Rock In A Hard Place? “Tell Me” is an articulate rendition of “Joanie’s Butterfly”.
Given that Aerosmith could barely walk onstage without Joe Perry throwing a mic stand at Steven Tyler for the last five years, it’s pretty astonishing that he was able to kiss Perry’s sassafrass long enough to record fifteen new songs. The comic-strip cover art reinforces the caricatures of the human beings Aerosmith have been living up to lately. Even the music comes across as a caricature at times: “Legendary Child” is a cartoon of their greatest hits (“Sweet Emotion”, “Walk This Way”). The conceit here may be a campy way of rehashing their precious creation myth, but this album is from the same folks who released the Night In The Ruts with the words “Right in the Nuts” on the back album flap. (Joe Perry actually walked out on that one — whoops). For Aerosmith, “not knowing wrong from right” is basically a way of life. But behind the word ‘dimension’ is the word ‘reinvention’, and that’s where this album gets impressive.
Tyler returned to his piano seat for guidance and gravitas. These last 10 years have been marred with new kinds of loss for Tyler, like his kids moving out and the collapse of his longest marriage. He struggled to reinvent himself in some weird ways: even firing his manager, leaving his band. “Can angels fly on broken wings?” he wonders on “Closer”. It’s a question he’s asked millions of times before, but on Dimension, he’d jump if someone so much as tweeted him the answer.
Tyler’s regret is palpable – and perfect – on “What Could Have Been Love”. When times got tough in the ’90s (’80s, or ’70s), there was always another gal with the devil in her eyes to see him through all his pain. That pattern of false-reliance and freeloading is how the Aerosmith train rolled right into the wall. Now “That train has come and gone”. In the video, there is a blond on Tyler’s sinewy limb, but she’s no Alicia Silverstone. When Tyler pronounces “love” and “alone,” he just crushes them together, because there’s no use in pretending anymore. Miraculously, Tyler has been able to hold onto the main love of his life: his voice. It remains marvelously intact, both on the record and off. You almost can’t blame him for phoning in a couple Diane Warren songs.
Dimension delivers because of Joe Perry, who has been lobbying to make this record longer than anyone else in the band. The lifelong Jeff Beck scholar had plenty of time to rework old riffs, which is why he never runs out of them. Perry lends everything from broiling blues to electric power chords. His slide solo transforms the fog of “LUV XXX” into a ride-a-horse-save-a-druglord jam. And on “Legendary Child”, Perry boomerangs around Brad Whitford’s rhythm guitar, producing a playful, gritty sound not achieved since “Woman of the World.” It’s Perry’s retelling of his Aero-story, and for better or worse, he needs those other four bony asses to tell it properly. He especially needs Joey Kramer: the funkiest mainstream drummer on the East Coast.
The funk element comes in on “Out Go The Lights”, a swelter of raging rag dolls and hangman juries drowning in one boogie-woogie whirlpool. “Liquor in the front/ And poker in the back” is a Tylerism that would sound tired from anybody else. After the fake ending at 4:11 (a classic Pump move), Perry slashes away on his guitar for three minutes, the cue for Tyler to hump his mic stand like the sugarplum nympho he was born to be. Steven Tyler may be the most cracked up Miss Cleo in music business, but he has been fortune telling this band’s dreams for 40 years and you best believe he’s not done yet.
Essential Tracks: “Out Go The Lights”, “Street Jesus”, and “Beautiful”