Nine Lives

Aerosmith

Columbia Records, 1997

http://www.aerosmith.com

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/27/2007

At some point in the 1990s, amidst the rising popularity of the compact disc, an older cousin gave me his old cassettes of Aerosmith’s Get a Grip and Pump. By the time I entered junior high school in 1997, Aerosmith had become one of my favorite bands, in spite of the unending mockery I got from my parents. “Aerosmith? Are those guys still alive?” and “You’re 13 years old! Shouldn’t you be listening to newer music?” were among some of the frequent, heckling phrases I endured at that tender age.

Needless to say, when Nine Lives hit the shelves I was excited: a new album from Aerosmith! This’ll prove ’em wrong and show that these guys are still rockin’ just as hard as the likes of Bush, Fastball and Matchbox 20!

Well, as it turned out, I was only partially correct. The disc wasn’t a riff-laden hard rock magnum opus like Bush’s Sixteen Stone (please note the sarcasm…). But listening to it today, I have to say that the handful of good songs on the album have stood the test of time better than a lot of the other mainstream hits to come out of the late 90s.

I must admit though, even at the age of 13, I couldn’t help but scratch my head at the sound of this album when I first popped it into the cassette player. It was so slickly produced and layered with orchestral overdubs, it sounded almost like a different band than the one that had recorded my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Pump, let alone Toys In The Attic. It was also littered with ballads, and I can remember battling with my tape deck as I endeavored to jump to the hard rock numbers and skip drawn-out ballads like “Hole In My Soul.”

Listening to it today, I have mixed feelings. Aerosmith still had the knack for writing guitar-fueled hard rock songs in the vein of their earlier material. “Crash” is a great little song that recalls the furious pace of “Rats In The Cellar.” Likewise, “Attitude Adjustment” and the title track both have the same rockin’ vibe to them. It was cleaned-up and lacked the grit of the 70s, but the formula was still largely the same as the good old days.

Of all the songs on here, “Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)” is the one I remember most vividly, right down to the hokey music video of Steven Tyler being shipped through a mental ward or hospital. The song still holds up well ten years after its release. The horns and infectious chorus put it in the same league as their hits from the Permanent Vacation-era for me. “Taste Of India” was also one of my favorites when I first bought this album, though the whole Eastern motif is pretty hokey-sounding nowadays. Still, it’s a decent track, with Tyler singing in a bit of a lower key than his usual style.

Sadly, for every good track, there’s a cringe-inducing ballad or formulaic pop song. “Hole In My Soul” is a wretched affair, a sort of precursor to “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” in terms of cheese and melodrama. “Full Circle” is a forgettable, pedestrian effort that aims to have listeners swaying back and forth with its hackneyed chorus of “Time… Don’t let it slip away / Raise your drinking glass / Here’s to yesterday.” One song, “Pink,” comes close to capturing the sort of appeal that lower-key numbers like “Rag Doll” did in the past, but ultimately falls flat. “Fallen Angels,” an over-the-top, soul-searching epic better suited for a Disney film than a rock album, drags on for over eight minutes before the album winds to a close. A couple of the lesser-known numbers like “The Farm” aren’t half bad, but don’t match up to previous heights.   

Aerosmith still had what it took to write good rock songs and catchy radio hits at this point, and that commands some respect in itself. But the band’s dependence on outside writers and their focus on power-ballads had reached a turning point, and today Nine Lives can only be described as a hollow listening experience.

Rating: C

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© 2007 Ben McVicker 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.