Just Push Play


Columbia Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


As any fan of Aerosmith knows, there are two major periods in their now 30 year-plus career: the first 15 years, which are distinguished by a much harder, grittier rock sound, and the last 15 years, which has leaned more towards slick commercial pop rock.

Fans of Aerosmith's 70's output (myself included) have been waiting patiently for the band to go back to its roots and re-discover the raw energy that fueled those early recordings. This is wishful thinking however, as the band has absolutely no reason to do this as long as the record buying public continues to reward them handily for the bland pop that they have thrown at us since the mid 80's, the best example of which was "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing", a shockingly sappy power ballad penned by cookie cutter songwriter Diane Warren, which went to number 1 on the charts in 1998.

So now in 2001 we come to Just Push Play, Aerosmith's first studio album since 1997's Nine Lives...what can I say? This is a predictable band in every way.

Before I even heard the album, I already pretty much knew what it would sound like. A few upbeat rock songs, a few distastefully commercial power ballads, predictable melodies, and lots of lyrics about love and sleaze...doesn't get much more cliched, does it?

Upon my first listen, most of my predictions were confirmed, but surprisingly, a lot of this material turned out a little stronger than I was expecting; it's a decent album, if not exactly a great one.

Things certainly start off very strong with "Beyond Beautiful". It begins with an Eastern flavoured riff reminiscent of "Taste Of India" from the previous album before breaking into a heavy, funky guitar riff that harkens back to the bands' 70's heyday. Tons of the attitude, swagger, and rawness that made them great in the first place.

The second track, "Just Push Play", continues with the infectuous funky riffs and rhythms, sounding like a distant cousin to "Walk This Way". However, this song features bizarre Jamaican patois singing and lyrics by Steven Tyler that have to be heard to be believed...it's amazingly cheesy, yet you won't be able keep yourself from bobbing to the beat. I also guarantee that you will not get the ultra catchy chorus out of your head! Definitely the most fun song on the record.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Jaded" is the first single, and while I absolutely hated it when I first heard it, it has grown on me somewhat. It's a weird upbeat rocky ballad with an over the top chorus that really tries hard to grab your attention, but it just seems too desperate and silly to me, suffering the exact same problem that the lead-off single from Nine Lives, "Falling In Love Is Hard On The Knees", suffered from. The melodies aren't too bad, but I would have chosen almost any other song on the record as a single over this one.

"Fly Away From Here" is the first huge mis-step. Why do they insist on continually throwing these utterly disposable power ballads at us? I can barely tell any of their ballads apart from the entire last decade. Completely predictable schlock that goes nowhere, and it wasn't even written by anyone in the band. That's another thing that frustrates me; is it really necessary to still hire outside songwriters who only water down the band's sound, despite over 30 years of experience?

The other power ballads on Just Push Play, "Luv Lies", and "Avant Garden" are not quite as bad, but they also have nothing to offer either. The only ballad that escapes relatively unscathed is "Sunshine", which at least has a pleasant guitar riff and some Beatle-esque melodies.

Thankfully there are still enough decent songs to save the album from mediocrity. Check out "Outta My Head", with its Prodigy style programmed techno beats and rapped lyrics! "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is another solid track that features modern production as well in a similar vein...sort of electronic funk, with Joe Perry (the group's lead guitarist) doing a fine job with the lead vocals this time, even if he doesn't have the raw screeching ability of Tyler.

"Under My Skin" and "Light Inside" are two more up-tempo heavier rock songs with some tasteful riffs, even if they aren't anything spectacular.

Well, that wraps up the album. My conclusion is that it's just ok. It's not great, but not terrible either. It doesn't come close to classic Aerosmith, but at this point we really shouldn't expect that anymore. It's all quite listenable, but that's just it; it's not very memorable, and there's nothing to get passionate about. I certainly like the use of the modern production values as they bring a freshness to an old band's sound, as well as show that they haven't completely abandoned experimentation just yet (surprising considering they stooped to performing with N'Sync at the Super Bowl). A friend of mine said they should have titled the album Just Push Skip; that's a bit harsh, and I'm sure a lot of people will find a lot to love about this album. And it's indeed better than most of their output of the last decade and a half, but that's still not saying much, at least in my opinion. I don't regret owning it, but I feel it's going to be one of those CD's that will spend a lot more time gathering dust on my shelf than being played.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2001 Roland Fratzl 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.