When a band as big as Aerosmith gets back together after yet another round of flame wars, drug addiction, rehab, song doctors, corporate tie-ins and reality TV appearances, you can bet that the results are going to be scattershot. Music from Another Dimension! is the superstar quintet’s first album of new material since 2001′s forgettable Just Push Play. At 15 songs and 68 minutes (and 18 and nearly 81 on the deluxe edition), Music offers second-rate rewrites of the band’s rightly-beloved hits, absurdly over-packed arrangements, largely bloated song lengths that twice approach seven minutes, and ego as outsized as Steven Tyler’s legendary lips.
It also features a few performances worthy of the group’s reputation as scrappy but professional showmen. As befitting a Boston band that exploded in the ’70s with a funky slant on Brit-rock interpretations of American soul, much of Music revisits the studio tricks of the Beatles’ psychedelic era together with the strutting rhythms and wailing background singers of vintage R&B. Starting with the Julian Lennon-augmented “Hello”s of “Luv XXX” through to the intro of “Another Last Goodbye” that combines the piano chords of “Dream On” with the flutes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (as well as the gently weeping, George Harrison-esque guitars of what’s by far the best bonus cut, “Sunny Side of Love”), Fab Four influences abound. There’s also Stones-y strutting; short and sweet on the refreshingly straightforward “Oh Yeah,” and then stretched out and sassy on “Out Go the Lights,” which swings on a quintessential Joe Perry guitar riff and a shameless cowbell beat for four minutes, then restarts in a tangle of Perry soloing and churchy vocal vamping.
Way more surprising is “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” Steven Tyler’s duet with fellow American Idol celebrity Carrie Underwood. The pairing seems airplay-calculated, like the band’s boilerplate Diane Warren-penned power ballads. (There’s another one here, “We All Fall Down.”) Yet this blatantly commercial move ends up charming because it removes the band from the comfort zone they retreat to elsewhere on the album. Even though you can sense everyone involved pushing each other to make the unlikely pairing work, the result feels effortless. Their voices blend as well, and the arrangement’s savvy mix of descending Beatle chords and soaring country strumming makes this the album’s most memorable song: “Tell me what you put into that kiss” is a Tyler-ism on a par with his cheeky best. This is Aerosmith walking tall, and they’re all the better for it.