Mission: Immersion 5.0 – Rocks by Aerosmith

Columbia 1976

Aerosmith may have descended into self parody over their 40+ year career, but how could that be avoided? The longer your band is around, the longer you have to pay to keep it around, and eventually, some aspect of it is going to get cheapened. Name me one band that’s been together longer than 30 years that hasn’t cheapened themselves in some way. Aerosmith definitely falls into this category, but before they met this fate, they were a pretty kickass band.

Let’s not focus on the bad times, though – let’s deal with the record at hand, which is indicative of Aerosmith’s greatest era. Rocks is a powerhouse – “Back in the Saddle” is one of the best boot-to-the-face opening tracks ever, so well-recorded that it still has the ability to sound new and fresh up against anything put out today. The whole album has that knockout Zeppelin sound, with those roomy drums and razor-sharp guitar licks, and most of the tunes live up to that presentation. “Sick as a Dog” has always been one of my favorite Aerosmith jams, as it showcases their more melodic abilities, and “Nobody’s Fault” openly plays tribute to the Zep in more than just it’s title (again, see Joey Kramer’s great Bonham impression).

Though the band is obviously fishing for the Zeppelin comparisons, they certainly deserve them. It would be impossible to come even close without a phenomenal drummer, and Joey Kramer fits that bill – he’s a freakin’ monster behind the kit, and Jack Douglas’ exceptional drum production captures its raw power in all of it’s roomy glory. And of course, if your band was REALLY trying to rip Led Zep, you would need an incendiary guitar player, and Aerosmith has that covered without question. Despite the pitfalls of their later years, Joe Perry has always been and will always remain a badass. Actually, I’m not sure Aerosmith could have survived this long without his presence – there’s just something about his don’t-give-a-fuck persona that keeps people at ease. The band was on the brink of extinction when they tried to release an album without him or bassist Tom Hamilton (see Rock in a Hard Place for one of rock’s most excruciating missteps), and only managed to survive when both members returned.

Nowadays, it’s tough to watch Aerosmith strut around like they can still write good tunes or even still rock in a worthy fashion, but because of the fact they made records like Rocks once upon a time, they deserve at least partial forgiveness. There is a reason this band has been a cultural mainstay for so long – they are what many of our parents got stoned to in their high school days, like my Built to Spill or Flaming Lips, or your Black Keys, or whatever, and their best music still evokes that spirit. ****

Listening Again? Definitely

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