IF ANY CRITIC ever cut Aerosmith slack during their halcyon days in the ‘70s, I never saw evidence of it. Steven Tyler seemed no more than an artificially induced Mick Jagger, a distorted mirror’s image with poutier, gravity-deflected lips and an even more cartoonish stage appearance. The whole group was deemed low-brow and sleazy and they went unnoticed and unloved by all except the millions of fans who knew a good riff when they heard one.
I met up with Robert Palmer, the esteemed New York Times music critic, recently and one of the many things we talked about was Aerosmith. “I thought their stuff was absolute junk at the time,” he admitted, “but they were a major influence on practically everything decent that’s coming out today.”
We agreed that Aerosmith was a band in clear need of re-evaluation, especially after their benchmark collaboration with Run-D.M.C. on ‘Walk This Way’, which was not only the most successful melding of disparate idioms we have seen in recent times, it was one of the best (maybe even the best) rock videos ever made.
Aerosmith has had some severe ups and downs over the two decades it has been in business, but Pump, their newest disc, sounds like a band fresh out of the starting gate. Pump rolls in like a thunderhead with a viciousness that hasn’t been matched by other veteran rockers as far back as I care to remember. Every song on the disc is cut from the same hard rock cloth; don’t expect slow-building ballads like ‘Dream On’ here. ‘F.I.N.E.’, ‘Love In An Elevator’ and ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’ (the lyrics of which I could not penetrate even if I had a decoder ring) are played for maximum body contact; to hear them is to feel them. Listening to Joe Perry’s hypersonic finger slashings on ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’ I got that rarest of rock critic afflictions — the itch to strap on that Les Paul Air Model Deluxe and take the motherfucker over.
I’m too old to have grown up drooling over Aerosmith — but hell, I can always learn.
© Tom Graves, Rock & Roll Disc, November 1989