Toys In The Attic
Columbia Records, 1975
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/11/2002
After the letdown that was Get Your Wings (as well as the failure of "Dream On" from Aerosmith to fully catch on as a hit single the first time around), Steven Tyler and crew needed something to go right. Refocusing on songwriting (along with the ability to throw in a catchy hook or three), Toys In The Attic was a marked improvement for Aerosmith - though I'm not quite willing to put it in the upper echelon of outstanding albums.
If you have never heard "Walk This Way" or "Sweet Emotion" before, you're either under the age of four, or you have been living in a cave the past 25 or so years. Overplayed to the point of structural collapse, Aerosmith mined gold with these two songs - and rightfully so. "Sweet Emotion" is a musical freight train that only continues to pick up steam as it continues; Tom Hamilton's bass work acts as an anchor for the whole song, while the guitar duo of Brad Whitford and Joe Perry lay the foundation for the song, Tyler sticking in his playfully suggestive lyrics throughout.
As for "Walk This Way" - you could almost call this track one of the earliest rap songs, due to Tyler's lightning-fast delivery of the lyrics. (No wonder that Run-DMC embraced this song when they covered it on their album Raising Hell.) Admittedly, I'm sick of hearing this one on the radio - but when I hear it in the context of the entire album, it fits.
Toys In The Attic has many moments like this - though radio never glommed onto tracks like "Uncle Salty," "No More No More" and the title track the way they did to "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion". Too bad, since "Toys In The Attic" is an absolute tour-de-force that takes no prisoners from the moment the first guitar chord bursts from your speakers. "No More No More" is an enjoyable track which shows that even a gentler moment can be wrapped around a hard rock center. And it may be filled with enough double-entendres to make Tipper Gore blush, but one can't help but like the playful naughtiness of "Big 10-Inch Record". (Too bad the kids of today will have no idea what Tyler is talking about; I can still remember digging 10-inch records out of my grandparents' collection... and, if I remember right, this was also the size of 78's.)
But Toys In The Attic is not a perfect album as you might be led to believe. "Adam's Apple" has promise, especially, in the slide-guitar licks which make up the opening bridges, but this track just never lives up to the expectations it sets early on. Likewise, "Round And Round" has the feel like it was just thrown together as a studio jam, and never materializes into much. The one full-fledged ballad, "You See Me Crying," is what I would call a "spectacular failure" - meaning that the reasoning and intentions for this song were excellent, but it just doesn't have the right amount of muscle to power this track into something special. It's not for any lack of trying on Aerosmith's part, though, and I do give them credit for having the chutzpah to close an otherwise powerful album out with a more introspective song.
Don't get me wrong, Toys In The Attic is one album I still would call a "must-own" for any serious rock fan's collection. But while it's a msjor step up for the boys from Boston, it's not the picture of perfection that one would like to believe it is.