Permanent Vacation


Columbia Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Today's lesson is a case in overhype, and how it can hurt something wonderful. Our subject matter is Permanent Vacation, the 1987 release from Aerosmith hailed by many as the disc which returned Steven Tyler and company to form.

Believe it or not, I don't believe I had ever seriously listened to this disc from start to finish before I chose to review it. I also went into this disc expecting to totally hate it.

Why, you ask? Because of the exploits of (on-)crack minds at rock radio, who have inundated us over the years with "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" and "Rag Doll" ad nauseam over the years. I've heard these songs so often that my finger almost unconsciously heads toward the channel-preset buttons whenever I hear their opening chords. No offense to the band, as I hope they'll understand in a moment or two.

When you've had the same diet of two songs crammed down your throat day after day for over 15 years (yes, kids, it's already been that long), you can't help but be a little jaded. That's really a shame, because the truth of the matter is Permanent Vacationmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 does indeed live up to the billing of a comeback album for Aerosmith. Where Done With Mirrors showed the band could still rock together and come up with entertaining songs, Permanent Vacation showed the band's true tightness, and even their willingness to be a little more experimental.

Let's talk about the three radio hits quickly. We've already touched on two, the third being "Angel". While I'm sick to death of hearing them on the radio, there is something to be said for hearing these songs in the environment of the complete album. It's hard to explain briefly, so let's just leave it at they fit better as a sum of the parts. "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" and "Rag Doll" both have beats which get your leg pumping like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, the latter having a wonderful shuffle pattern to the rhythm. "Angel" is a pretty enough ballad without dipping too deeply into the syrup -- quite possibly the last time Aerosmith would indeed show restraint in that regard.

But if you like the three hits off of Permanent Vacation, you'll want to dust off this disc again and listen to some of the hidden gems that have been ignored over the years. The title track has an almost Jimmy Buffett-like vibe to it, and is quite possibly a hidden hit on this disc. The same argument could easily be made for "Heart's Done Time," quite possibly the best non-single hit Aerosmith has recorded. Tyler is in fine voice and guitarist Joe Perry does something admirable -- he tones down his solos to allow the rest of the band's brilliance to shine through.

Experimentation is definitely the key to Permanent Vacation, and is one of the reasons the disc works as well as it does. From the tropical vibe of the title track to the earthy blues of "St. John" and "Hangman Jury," it seems like Aerosmith constantly fires on all cylinders. Well, almost…

The sole stumbling block on this disc comes on the final two tracks. The instrumental "The Movie" just seems pointless and a bit anticlimactic at the end of the disc. As for the cover of "I'm Down," let's just say that Tyler and crew should have learned their lesson about covering the Beatles with their contribution of "Come Together" from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack. It's not terrible, but it's highly unnecessary.

Permanent Vacation has been placed on a pedestal by many Aerosmith fans as the band's Holy Grail. While rock radio has done its best to tarnish that legacy, the disc as a whole does prove that it was the turning point for Aerosmith's rebirth, and is rightfully acclaimed as such.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.