Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Aerosmith

  • Get Your Wings [Columbia, 1974] B-
  • Toys in the Attic [Columbia, 1975] B+
  • Rocks [Columbia, 1976] A-
  • Draw the Line [Columbia, 1977] B-
  • Night in the Ruts [Columbia, 1979] C+
  • Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1980] A-
  • Done With Mirrors [Geffen, 1985] B+
  • Classics Live II [Columbia, 1987] B+
  • Permanent Vacation [Geffen, 1987] C+
  • Gems [Columbia, 1988] B
  • Pump [Geffen, 1989] B+
  • Get a Grip [Geffen, 1993] A-
  • Big Ones [Geffen, 1994] **
  • Nine Lives [Columbia, 1997] Neither
  • Just Push Play [Columbia, 2001] Choice Cuts

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Get Your Wings [Columbia, 1974]
These prognathous New Englanders are musicianly (all things are relative) inheritors of the Grand Funk principle: if a band is going to be dumb, it might as well be American dumb. Here they're loud and cunning enough to provide a real treat for the hearing-impaired, at least on side one. Have a sense of humor about themselves, too, assuming "Lord of the Thighs" is intended as a joke. With dumb bands it's always hard to tell. B-

Toys in the Attic [Columbia, 1975]
These boys are learning a trade in record time--even the sludgy numbers get crazy. Too bad the two real whompers are attached to rockstar lyrics, albeit clever ones, because Steve Tyler has a gift for the dirty line as well as the dirty look--anybody who can hook a song called "Adam's Apple" around the phrase "love at first bite" deserves to rehabilitate a blue blues like "Big Ten Inch Record." B+

Rocks [Columbia, 1976]
Dave Hickey compares the teen crossover of the year to a Buick Roadmaster, and he's right--they've retooled Led Zeppelin till the English warhorse is all glitz and flow, beating the shit out of Boston and Ted Nugent and Blue Oyster Cult in the process. Wish there were a lyric sheet--I'd like to know what that bit about J. Paul Getty's ear is about--but (as Hickey says) the secret is the music, complex song structures that don't sacrifice the basic 4/4 and I-IV-V. A warning, though: Zep's fourth represented a songmaking peak, before the band began to outgrow itself, and the same may prove true for this lesser group, so get it while you can. A-

Draw the Line [Columbia, 1977]
The problem with the multiple-riff hi-test jobs that made Rocks rock was that when time came to follow up, the band was out of gas. The best of the three good ones here is a mold-breaking Joe-Perry-alone boogie that probably reflects the usual "internal tensions." Perry goes nowhere near the mold-breaking "Kings and Queens," synthesized medieval pomp-rock (cf. Styx, Rush) that proves beyond doubt that they won't bite "The Hand That Feeds." We knew it all along, guys. B-

Night in the Ruts [Columbia, 1979]
This opens with a promising song about their career called "No Surprize." Then they edge ever closer to the flash guitar, dull tempos, and stupid cover versions of heavy-metal orthodoxy. No surprise. C+

Greatest Hits [Columbia, 1980]
I could quibble with side two, which doesn't conceal their sudden decline the way it might have, but the Sgt. Pepper "Come Together" is a keeper, and except for the Anglophile "Kings and Queens" the post-Rocks tracks do create a context for themselves. Side one is the great American "hard-rock" band sounding more relaxed and bluesy than the one that made Rocks--because originally it was relaxation that made their white blues so American. Such revelations are what best-ofs are for. A-

Done With Mirrors [Geffen, 1985]
Their knack for the basic song and small interest in guitar-hero costume drama always made them hard rock that deserved the name, not to mention an American band. Still, with almost a decade of bad records collective and solo behind them, there was no reason to expect a thing from this touching reunion. And against all odds the old farts light one up: if you can stand the crunch, you'll find more get-up-and-go on the first side than on any dozen random neogarage EP's. B+

Classics Live II [Columbia, 1987]
Six of eight tracks on Corporate Revenge II were cut New Year's Eve 1984, a money gig for sure, and every one was at least eight years old at the time; a seventh previewed a song soon to appear on their Geffen debut--but recorded, heh heh, while they were still under CBS jurisdiction. And what we get is some of the toughest and least indulgent live metal ever vinylized, not quite Greatest Hits (four dupes) but way beyond Live Bootleg or Corporate Revenge I. Professionalism--who can predict it? B+

Permanent Vacation [Geffen, 1987]
Don't let the twelve tracks, blues moves, or ace Beatle cover mislead you. Horns here and here and here plus mellotron there and there plus song doctors all over the place add up to running out of gas again already. C+

Gems [Columbia, 1988]
Anybody who doubts they made a great album once (and only once) should check the title and then explain why buried gems from Rocks lead both sides of their second best-of. Because Rocks's openers got used up the first time is why. B

Pump [Geffen, 1989]
If fried brains is your idea of a rock dream, the first side will do the job at least as good as whatever raging slab is also your idea of a rock dream. For five songs, everything loud and acrid about them just keeps on coming--not even tune doctors can stave off the juggernaut. Of course, this band's idea of a rock dream is also the traditional "Young Lust" and "Love in an Elevator"--OK as far as it goes, but I could do with more "Janie's Got a Gun," in which an abused teenager offs her dad. B+

Get a Grip [Geffen, 1993]
There are no rules. Obscene megabucks, boring rehab, song doctors, turning 40, minuscule interest in doing something new--nothing stands between the world's greatest hard rock band and their best album since Rocks. The drugs long gone, they show a strong professional commitment to rebellion and an undiminished relish for the fleshpots. If the song doctors prescribed "I'd rather be O.D.in' on the/Crack of her ass," not to mention "It's like gettin' head from a guillotine," they were worth every point. And though at first you may miss the killer cut, the "My Fist Your Face" or "Janie's Got a Gun," in fact the midtempo, classic-rock, love-as-pain "Cryin'" should prove irresistible to anyone who doesn't equate good art with doing something new. A-

Big Ones [Geffen, 1994]
"Janie's Got a Gun" yes, "My Fist Your Face" no, two expert Michael Beinhorn add-ons yes, Get a Grip no ("Janie's Got a Gun," "Blind Man") **

Nine Lives [Columbia, 1997] Neither

Just Push Play [Columbia, 2001]
"Jaded" Choice Cuts