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Aerosmith: Just Push Play

The album covers tell the story of Aerosmith's ongoing comeback. In 1987, Permanent Vacation emphasized the classic band logo, signaling a return to classic Aerosmithian values after years spent in the professional and personal wilderness. Two years later, the similarly strong Pump featured a whimsically suggestive sleeve involving two trucks in the process of marital relations—clearly the work of a band comfortable enough in its renaissance to have a little fun. By 1993's Get A Grip, with its disturbing picture of a cow udder adorned with a piercing, the fun had gone on too long, and the music reflected that fact. Similarly, the gaudy excess of the cover of 1997's Nine Lives, with its fan-art-level depiction of a sexy cat-woman atop a multi-headed snake, said what needed saying about the contents of the package. So it's no great comfort to find the new Just Push Play sporting a Heavy Metal-inspired curvy female robot striking a Marilyn Monroe pose, pretty much announcing an inhuman, mechanized version of fun. Fortunately, nothing is quite so memorably dire on the album itself, even if nothing is so memorably good, either. The advance word on Play characterized it as Aerosmith's attempt to get back to its roots by creating a self-produced, no-apologies rock album. This does little to explain production credited to "The Boneyard Boys," listed as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and industry vets Mark Hudson and Marti Frederiksen, band outsiders who receive co-writing credit for most of the album's tracks. It does even less to explain the electronic percussion of the album-opening "Beyond Beautiful" or the half-hearted scratching heard on the title track. To whose roots does Aerosmith want to return? Korn's? Thanks in part to the solid single "Jaded," the middle chunk of the album is solid, making good on Aerosmith's promise by emphasizing what it does best: straight-ahead, Stones-derived, blues-based boogie. If it doesn't quite wash out the taste of the group's inescapable, unspeakable, Diane Warren-penned contribution to the Armageddon soundtrack, it at least comes close. The attempts at edge found in the electronic tinges of "Outta Your Head" create the queasy feeling of watching somebody's dad try out the latest dance moves—you have to admire the courage behind it, even if you can't wait for it to stop—but the acceptable outweighs the embarrassing. While nothing will join "Dream On" as a lighter-waving concert classic, Just Push Play still seems like more than just another excuse to hit the road and trot out the hits. Fans should note that "Face," one of the album's better tracks, is available only on the copies sold at a Minneapolis-based national electronics chain, no doubt because Aerosmith passionately believes it to be the best such store in the country.


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