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If there was one musical personality from the not too distant past (well, 11 years since the last album), one act that you’d hope would come back with something at least pleasantly eccentric (if not necessarily good), it would be Steve Tyler and Aerosmith. Whilst their MO has always been gratingly cheeky blues riffs and sugary torch songs they’ve also had the power to surprise, from a genuinely innovative collaboration with Run DMC to some genuinely excellent, if unhealthily saccharine, ballads (mostly from ‘Get A Grip’). Once in a while, Aerosmith can make you stop, don a pashmina and feel good.
The only reason Music From Another Dimension! will stop you is to turn around for a refund.
Let’s focus on the positives, though. People like power ballads, be they from Steve Tyler, Charlotte Church or people in adverts selling financial products. Ballads are honest outpourings of emotion. Politics should be conducted via power ballads. That way there’d be no chance for deception in the House of Commons. If Cameron’s singing and not feeling it, if he doesn’t believe what he says, we’ll be able to tell. Bjork would be an excellent PM.
So there’s three power ballads smeared into this messy collection and they’re the only songs worth writing about. Whilst Aerosmith alumni may be mildly impressed by the 'prog' seven minutes of 'Street Jesus' and admire the head down rhythm of 'Lover Alot', really there are only three songs that move beyond treading water; ‘What Could Have Been Love’, ‘Can’t Stop Lovin’You’ and ‘Another Last Goodbye’.
‘What Could Have Been Love’ is the weakest of the three. The last 30 seconds have the harmonies, the melody, the warmth to create that power-grab tingle and a momentary softening to the Hollywood notion of American happiness. Big jumpers, a beach, proms, cars. Until the very final refrain the chorus doesn’t swing on a large enough circumference to scoop you into it and the verses are non-descript. Only four power grabs out of 10.
‘Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’ is either charmingly deluded or a cynical marketing ploy but either way, Aerosmith are not Taylor Swift, even if Carrie Underwood, who duets on this number, almost is. The chorus is strong though, good pacing, strong vocal dynamics between Steve and Carrie. Cars, beer bottles, Alicia Silverstone’s blog (‘The Kind Life’), cowboys. Easily six power grabs out of 10. It could have scored more if Shania Twain and Mutt Lange had been involved to capture that real electro-Nashville-bluegrass-ballad feeling, an overlooked and too long ignored genre.
‘Another Last Goodbye’ is insane, and brilliant for three main reasons. Firstly, it has a classic power ballad sound - predominantly just a piano... and Tyler’s voice. It sways from ‘classic’ Tyler to something akin to the metamorphosis from Mogwai to Gremlin. At its crescendo it’s funnier than both films put together.
Secondly it uses the ‘anti-chorus’ formula, for each bridge that feels it’s about to propel into space Tyler instead deflates to the line “Another last goodbye”. It works.
The final component of this triple threat of excellence is the deployment of the lyric “You call me your baby/I kiss away the tears you cry/And then you go and leave me… pissed off and alone”… several times. Is it genius or terrible? It must be genius of some kind. A country fiddle even enters for a solo to add another random element. 10 inverted power grabs out of 10. This is also the last track on the album – an extra power grab.
This is a bad album. The power ballads have some good elements. You might sing one of these songs at karaoke one day. You should not listen to this album in its entirety.
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