When jackknifing into the hot shallow mess that is Music From Another Dimension!, it's important to remember that Aerosmith was never all that deep to begin with. The boys from Boston, for all their hip-thrusty talents, don't make major statements; they make music for shooting pool. Dream On is as weighty as they get, and even that is really just solid men's-room-wall poetry.
And yet, I've found myself enjoying Steven Tyler & Co. more and more the older I get, and I think it's because of their limitations. Yes, there's something to be said for endurance; Tyler is 64, guitarist Joe Perry 62. And I'm a freak for their Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney World. But my increasing appreciation probably has more to do with the numbing rigors of adulthood than anything else: Aerosmith offers fun, dumb calm in a relentless death-and-taxes storm.
Speaking of which: Music From Another Dimension!, the quintet's first new album in eight years. Not much has changed in nearly a decade, and by that I mean nothing has changed. Greasy white-boy blues (the smarmy grind of Street Jesus) bumps into windy, over-the-top balladry (We All Fall Down, written by Diane Warren, who penned the band's 1998 hit I Don't Want to Miss a Thing).
Lumped together, the new LP is a sloppy, no-holds party with sing-along nonsense, loud guitars and a Hollywood guest list just looking to cut loose, too. Carrie Underwood duets with Tyler on Can't Stop Lovin' You. Johnny Depp sings backup on the Perry-voiced Freedom Fighter. Heck, even Julian Lennon shows up.
After a popular two-year stint on American Idol, which seemingly sobered him up and made him a naughty darling of Midwestern grandmas, Tyler is still Tyler, for better or worse. He's always sounded like ragged death behind the mike, but that's perfect accompaniment to Perry's switchblade licks. The frenemies still work great together.
That said, when it comes to lyricism, Tyler remains a degenerate Dr. Seuss. The album opens with Love in an Elevator redux Luv XXX: "Top hat glovers kissin' lipstick girls / Kissin' high heel lovers with the cinnamon swirls." Hmm, well, at least the song sounds pretty good! In hound-dog shuffle Out Go the Lights, which layers a decent rock song with cheesy horn blasts and an incongruous R&B choir, Tyler's words are so ridiculous, you wonder if it's self-parody: "If you want to take a lookie, cookie / Tonight might be your lucky nighty, nite, nite." It's either slick satire or absolute garbage.
Chances are good that Music From Another Dimension! will fade pretty fast, from the charts and from our minds — maybe even by the time Aerosmith plays the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Dec. 11. But that's okay. The dudes aren't looking to make deep, lasting art; they just want to make good-time noise, a lil' something silly to cut through the soul-sucking clatter of life. And these days, who can argue with that?