Aerosmith: Rocks

AEROSMITH HAVE GOT the whole situation psyched.

Rocks, their fourth album, is just about to hit the top colour in the US charts – meanwhile they stomp over every box office record in sight, lambasting all competition into a messy little heap of pummelled sawdust.

Them and ZZ Top both – God save us.

Not that I’m casting aspersions on either their abilities or the justice implied in seeing what is only a very basic, crude formula reap such huge returns; their live reputation has admittedly never been adequately turned over or explained away by anyone else and until you’ve seen the phenomenon stick an audience splat right across the largest halls in the States you can hardly judge their pneumatic effect in toto.

This is a far better album than the surprisingly feeble Toys In The Attic – more juice from producer Jack Douglas and concentrated concert atmosphere from da boys.

Trouble is Aerosmith must be the only musical (I use the term in jest) faction operating the electric circuit who get the melody line from the drummer.

Other than that the only ingredients they lack are taste, originality and style.

They’ve evolved their own ‘sound’, it’s loud, they play with as much vim as the hard rock fraternity in England. If we’re gonna count units then they’re also beating Zep, Bad Co., Queen and Mott at their own card game.

Steve Tyler (inne luvly?) rants and raves raucously. Brad Whitford and Joe Perry strike off planet weight mass density leaden guitars, meaty axes I should say, and the rhythm duo, unfunky Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton race the beat through all manner of unconnected time changes and structural idiosyncrasies designed to confuse you and open up the guard for the kill.

Rocks might even be a concept in that it takes the live overview design. It begins with ‘Back In The Saddle’, obviously a fine way of detonating the wolf pack, and ends with ‘Home Tonight’. See what they’re getting at?

Tactically Aerosmith are not dumb, their records get less subtle as their importance grows accordingly. They play with flame and come out unsinged.

Now and again the fuse lights off it own ignition spark plug.

‘Rats In The Cellar’ busts the metronome in your brain. Toc, toc bang. Sounds like The Tubes on a heaving metal send up. ‘Combination’ seems to be a pretty safe number too, Brad and Joe slice necks on the breaks. At least it ain’t background stuff.

Qualitatively ‘Sick As A Dog’ and ‘Lick And A Promise’ are alright, movers, they actually keep the solos under control and Tyler must be getting close to carrying off the muscular vocal chord award usually held by Robert Plant.

Ultimately Aerosmith are nothing special, plenty of spit and polish but studio wise they don’t storm the rink as serious contenders for any crowns of creation. I see the appeal, the ordinary nature of American speed brat rock defying the listener to ignore the beat.

Very masculine punch plus Steve for the ladies. It’s all to do with sex, surprise, surprise.

‘Get The Lead Out’ and that ‘Lick’ thing are mindless teen anthems, you just get absorbed in the cacophony let it drift over your skull.

Maybe I’ve missed the point. Aerosmith are exploding like acne and yep, they do have their moments.

I still like those bits between the tracks best though.

© Max BellNew Musical Express, 3 July 1976

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