Why Rolling Stone gets it right: It's good to be reminded that there was a time when Aerosmith wasn't totally awful. "Back In The Saddle" has a sludgy, awesome riff and "Nobody's Fault" is kind of an important song and has a great solo.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Well, it's Aerosmith and I don't care for Aerosmith. Basically, a Zeppelin ripoff act, Aerosmith never really did it for me.
Best song: "Back In The Saddle" is, hands down, the best song on any Aerosmith album.
Worst song: "Sick As A Dog" charted, but it kind of stinks.
Is it awesome?: Nope, though it's as close as Aerosmith ever gets to greatness.
This is the first of two Aerosmith albums on the list, so I figure I might as well write about the band and my feelings it...
I don't like Aerosmith. At all. Like, at all. I can appreciate the bass/guitar play in "Back In The Saddle," but that's about it.
Much of this, I'm sure, is a function of my age. Being 26, my first exposures to the band were their late-era success records. "Pump" (featuring the singles "Janie's Got A Gun" and "Love In An Elevator") was my first real knowledge that a band called Aerosmith existed. The band appeared on the Simpsons in 1991, which was pretty awesome.
The fever pitch of their popularity -- and my hatred of the band -- in my lifetime was 1993's "Get A Grip" wherein the band released three singles that
- Had three-syllable titles/hooks
- Said hooks were sang in, seriously, almost the exact same cadence
- Featured sexy Jew Alicia Silverstone (one was pervy in that it also featured a scantily-clad Liv Tyler. Live Tyler being the daughter of the lead singer. G-r-o-s-s.)
It was a really awful period of time. That record had another hit single ("Livin' On The Edge") that had some idiotic anti-drug theme or something. It's awful.
That's kind of where I stand on Aerosmith. It's kind of too bad. If I'd known Aerosmith solely as the band of "Walk This Way," "Sweet Emotion" and "Back In The Saddle," I might actually take them seriously.
Part of it is the idea of this whole project. Aerosmith, as a band, is incredibly derivative (vocals of Zeppelin, guitar parts of Yardbirds to a point of covering "Train Kept A'Rollin'") and the band basically tries to ape boomer loves (Zep, Beck, the sex/drugs/rock 'n roll thing). That they weren't a big-time band before the Run-D.M.C. collaboration in the '80s or that they weren't superduperstars until middle age -- when all the boomers were running VH1 and the like -- is, to me, an indication of their lack of worth. Aerosmith isn't a good band. They're just not.
With that said, "Rocks" isn't an insult to one's ears like "Get A Grip" or "Pump" are. Indeed, it's a cheap Yardbirds/Zep ripoff. "Nobody's Fault" is kind of the template used in every '80s "I'm sorry" ballad from the hair metallers. "Sick As A Dog" has some stops and starts that are mildly worthwhile. "Last Child" is their funkiest song, which isn't saying much considering we're talking about a band of white guys from New England. "Back In The Saddle" is probably the best Aerosmith song, built around a monster riff played on a six-string bass.
Still, it's nothing special. I've called numerous albums "boring" -- it's one of the worst insults I can give a record -- but most "boring" records are simply soft rock. "Rocks" is boring hard/arena rock. It even has the requisite "our crowds are awesome" song ("Lick and a Promise"), a concept copped from Zep's "The Ocean."