Release Date: 03.06.01
Record label: sony
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Same Old Stuff or a New Beginning?
by: steven jacobetz and paul tinelli
Veteran rockers Aerosmith have returned with their latest studio album, Just Push Play. The album is flying off the shelves, but is there more to the album than the new single? Our reviewers have a disagreeance on this - read on for both sides of the story:
Just Push Repeat
by: steven jacobetz
The way you feel about modern-day Aerosmith depends on your personal musical tastes:
If you like pop/rock specifically tailored for radio and video airplay, then to you today's Aerosmith is great. Just Push Play is another album in this vein continuing in the style of 90s albums like Get A Grip and Nine Lives.
However, if you prefer a more raw, raunchy, straight guitar rock sound which is much more simply produced, then you prefer the albums from the 70s. You feel Aerosmith has sold its soul in the last 15 years in return for continued commercial success.
The history of Aerosmith is really the story of two completely different bands with these opposing musical philosophies. Amazingly, the band members are exactly the same.
The differences may stem from a lack of confidence on the part of the band members. In the mid-80s, the band was at a crossroads in its career. The reunion album, Done With Mirrors was a commercial disappointment, so the powers that be at Geffen Records made the band work with a string of collaborators, professional songwriters, in order to make the band more commercially attractive. It worked. 1987's Permanent Vacation started a new wave of success which the band has ridden since then.
The problem is, the band quickly started to believe that it needed songwriting help in order to function. In a 1990 behind-the scenes documentary on the making of the Pump album, Steven Tyler says that he needs these people to make sense out of the bits and pieces in his head. From there, the influence of the record companies only got more dominant, until we get to where we are today.
Now, Aerosmith is big business, a corporate machine. The mission is to be "America's best band." Albums take four years to craft to perfection. The band plays the Super Bowl halftime show, sharing its 70s classic "Walk This Way" with other prominent pop stars of the day, like Britney Spears and N'Sync. In reality, the band is just like those other artists now.
When Aerosmith shared the same song with rappers Run-DMC 15 years ago, it was a groundbreaking social statement about brotherhood between the races. The Super Bowl is pure corporate promotional manipulation. No time for social commentary now, this is business. It's on to promotional appearances on Letterman, Saturday Night Live, Good Morning America and what have you. This is the life of America's biggest pop band. There's no stopping this machine now.
Just look at the songwriting credits on the new album. Not a single song was written without the aid of a collaborator. In fact, band members get no writing credit on the ballad, "Fly Away From Here." Guess what? That song will be one of the singles.
That's not the way it's always been. By comparison, no collaborators at all appeared on the 1976 album Rocks. That album produced classics like, "Back In The Saddle" and "Last Child." That album is considered by band members and many critics to be the pinnacle of the band's 70s output. It's songs like those, and "Walk This Way" "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On" etc. that got the band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the recent stuff.
The new pop songs won't last more than a couple of years. They're not designed to. A new batch will replace them in a few years. Do you still hear people talking about songs like "Cryin'" "Crazy" and "Amazing"? No, but "Walk This Way" lives forever. What does this tell you? Aerosmith did a fine job of writing its own material back in the day.
Years ago, current bands wanted to be like Aerosmith. Now it seems Aerosmith wants to be like current bands. The title track of the new album, "Just Push Play" has Tyler singing in "Jamaican patois" giving the song a feel similar to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' "Give It Away." It's good to experiment, but this sounds too much like a calculated attempt to sound contemporary.
Tyler raps again on "Outta Your Head." Others like "Drop Dead Gorgeous" feature industrial guitar effects and plenty of vocal effects like back-masking. The attempt to approximate the sound of popular rap-metal bands like Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit is clear. This is not your father's Aerosmith. However, there's a 60s psychedelic sound that pervades the vocals on most tracks that betrays them and reveals their age and their roots after all.
Just Push Play is too slick and overproduced to be fresh and interesting. If you listen close enough, you can still hear some cool guitar riffs from Joe Perry, traces of the power and swagger that used to be the band's core, but it's buried under so much studio production, it's hard to hear the germ of inspiration that was there when these songs were first written. Corporate control is too intense.
This album will do fine. Ballads like "Jaded" "Fly Away From Here" and "Luv Lies" will draw in female fans. Just Push Play will be another big commercial success, but something was lost. Where's the soul, the spontaneity? The loss of personality and total creative control is the price of success.
To some, Aerosmith is one of the greatest musical tragedies in rock and roll history. To others, the band is bigger now than ever. Wherever you stand, one thing is certain; there's no going back to the past. The corporate machine has control. It's big business. That's just the way it is, so accept it for what it is. Nothing is going to change anytime soon.
The Second Coming of Aerosmith
by: paul tinelli
Aerosmith soon will achieve the rare feat of being inducted into the rockhall of fame and releasing a huge commercially successful album of original material in the same year. Their latest release, Just Push Play, shows that Aerosmith wants to stake the claim as America's greatest current rock and roll band and that they don't plan on becoming a museum piece anytime soon.
Just Push Play is Aerosmith's best outing since 1989's Pump. The production of the album, which was handled by Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and songwriting partners Marti Frederiksen and Mark Hudson under the pseudonym the "Boneyard Boys", provides an excellent balance that allows the album to sound current without sterilizing the distinctive dirty raw edge that makes the band great. This element had been missing in their last few releases.
"Jaded" the lead single off the album is already a smash on rock radio and there are more hits to follow. "Beyond Beautiful" and "Outta Your Head" are solid tracks that provide great riffs, soaring catchy choruses and Tyler lyrics full of sexual double- entandre (All this time did you ever think / do the girl see red/ when the man sees pink), which are all trademarks of classic Aerosmith.
Another great aspect of their music that the band has rediscovered here is their great use of horns. The Tower of Power horns provided a solid groove on "Trip Hoppin'" which happens to be the best track on the album. "Drop Dead Gorgeous" rocks as hard as any song on the album, although I can't quite figure out what Joe Perry is doing on lead vocals.
Unfortunately "Fly Away From Here" is a blatant effort at repeating the success of their monster ballad from a few summers back "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing". The song will no doubt be a major hit and another multi-million dollar video on MTV starring a young Hollywood starlet can't be far behind.
It may be true that Tyler and Perry are no longer the "toxic twins" and this album won't make the band's true fans forget Rocks anytime soon but on Just Push Play the new millennium version of Aerosmith has shown that, thirty years on, it can still keep up with the times and is probably still America's greatest true rock and roll band.