AS AEROSMITH race through ‘Toys In The Attic’, first track on the platter, all raging guitars, quaint lyrics about ‘leaving the things that are real behind’ and echoed harmony choruses against vibrant riffing, one could be excused for categorising them an American Queen.
The pace is breathtaking, as though they wanted to finish early so they could watch themselves on telly; the meshing is as tight as a corset on a Gibson Girl. As side one progresses though, the illusion disappears under encroaching ethnicism. Not even the cover credit for vocalist Steven Tyler’s tailor can disguise the fact that they’re American, and therefore no Oscar Wildes in the glamour and elegance stakes. Still, they do carry off their Anglo pretensions with some class. Perhaps it’s because they’re mainly from Boston.
The most important person on this disc is producer Jack Douglas. His efforts make one wonder how this little combo tackle their material on stage, because on wax Douglas can take the worst rockaboogie muzak the band deliver and inject some hooks and touches that make the ears perk up. He tends to bury Tyler’s lyrics, bringing out choruses with echo so that a line like ‘ooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window’, sung in a doom-ridden way, causes one to work out the rest of the lyrics if only to satisfy curiosity. Whether this is a nod to the Stones or merely because Tyler’s lyrics are a little mundane is uncertain.
Which leaves the music – on the one hand the baseball bat and sledgehammer syndrome and on the other hand pretensions to rock art. They have a wonderful way with clichés that sound terrific, which is exactly why they’re clichés. I particularly like the descending minor chords over the bass in the chorus of ‘No More No More’, not to mention the orchestra on ‘You See Me Crying’. It is this taste for the cliché that is their charm. They’ve studied their fave English groups but BTOism just sneaks in. The cumulative effect is not unlike sitting under the Golden Arches munching a MacDonalds burger while grooving on some Aubrey Beardsley prints. Which ain’t bad at all, so long as you don’t spill ketchup on the pages.
© Jonh Ingham, Sounds, 2 August 1975