Signed, sealed and delivered
ALL RISE. Here is American rock signed and sealed with a magnificent flourish, delivered with a flawless attack.
Pump doesn’t so much wipe out the competition as breeze past it, invincibly confident. I don’t care how good The Rolling Stones are again, or how many millions of units Guns N’ Roses can shift: Aerosmith have just rewritten the book.
It’s hard to believe that the washed-up bunch of musical cripples who made Night In The Ruts and Done With Mirrors are the same guys who made the frequently sublime Permanent Vacation and this unanswerable follow-up. Never has a recovery been so complete.
The music here has all the muscle and volume of state-of-the-art metal, but that’s something any team of meatheads can muster if they’ve smart producer and a big enough budget. Where Aerosmith hit their homers is in such other little matters as songwriting, dynamics, textures — even roots. This music traces back far beyond the abstract, fatherless sound of today’s metal.
For instance: Steve Tyler’s lyrics take a knowing glance out the door at the back porch of the blues. The girl with the hoochie coochie eyes and the right key, wrong keyhole of ‘FINE’ go back at least to Muddy Waters, and probably to Lemon Jefferson as well. The snippets of acoustic music are exhilarating shots of authenticity that shove Aerosmith right in the heart of the glorious muddle of American music.
And there’s the mean howl of ‘Monkey On My Back’ and the surly harmonica (and digeridoo!) stomp of ‘Don’t Get Mad, Get Even’ that recall the era when metal dipped into R&B as a matter of course. Plus, of course, the best deep-throat harmonies this side of The Temptations.
After the astounding one-two of the opening ‘Young Lust’ and ‘FINE’, you can’t believe that they can keep it cooking — this onrushing storm of guitars and drums, cheer-led by Tyler’s impeccably paced vocals. But the ‘Love In An Elevator’ single, which in most hands would be just another leering noise, is organised with an almost symphonic detail and resonance, and from there they scarcely look back.
‘Take Me To The Other Side’ recycles the crazy strut of the last record’s ‘(Dude) Looks Like A Lady’, which is fine — it was too good to leave without an encore. Then come the faintly delirious ballads that close each side, cooling off the wrecking machine without having them loosen their grip. I almost forgot-this was the band that did ‘Dream On’.
Bruce Fairbairn produces and slams everything in your face.
All hail, all hail. The last great rock record of the ’80s. I’ll be smiling all the way to New Year now.
© Richard Cook, Sounds, 16 September 1989