Aerosmith, Just Push Play (Columbia Records)
The bigger they are, the harder and sadder it is when they fall, especially when it comes to hard-rock heroes Aerosmith, the once mighty bad boys from Beantown who have pumped out Just Push Play, yet another overproduced balled-ridden clunker. To think that this is the same band that laid down such definitive classic-rock tracks as "Walk This Way," "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On" is a big part of what makes Just Push Play so disappointing. Steven, Joe, Brad, Tom and Joey are certainly capable of kicking out some major jams but instead have chosen to rely again on outside songwriters and an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink production style. The result is miles away from the bare-knuckle riffs and crash-along choruses that put Aerosmith on the rock 'n' roll map and into heavy radio rotation.
"Jaded," the new single, is the most memorable song on the disc, but that's not saying much. Most every moment of the albums' dozen songs sounds like any other moment from any other Aerosmith recording since Permanent Vacation, the band's celebrated, cleaned-up late '80s comeback album. Technically, there's nothing wrong with Just Push Play. The tempos are up, the cymbals ring clearer than crystal and Tyler is in fine voice, despite more than thirty years of shrieking his leathery lungs out. But it's that aforementioned annoying level of déjà vu that makes you want to "Just Push Eject." To make things even more perverse, the weepy ballad "Fly Away From Here" should sell another platinum number of copies to the same million suckers who "didn't want to miss a thing" on Aerosmith's last CD, Nine Lives.
Correct me if needed, but aren't nine lives the most even the coolest of cats are supposed to get? S.D.
Spacehog, The Hogyssey (Artemis Records)
Spacehog, unlike other New York City bands such as D-Generation, NYC Loose and Chrome Locust, are one of the few successful Big Apple acts of the 1990s that survived the odyssey into the new millennium. Now with a new label (Artemis) behind them, Spacehog have reentered the market place with The Hogyssey, a shimmering new concept CD inspired by Stanley Kubrick's psychedelic sci-fi flick 2001: A Space Odyssey. The cinematic influence is clearest on the instrumental track "The Hogyssey," a rocked-out cover of Richard Strauss' classical piece "Also Sprach Zarathustra" which Kubrick used on the Space Odyssey soundtrack. Spacehog brothers Royston (vocals/bass) and Antony Langdon (guitar/vocals), along with Richard Steel (lead guitars) and Jonny Cragg (drums) are four space cadets who have certainly done their homework.
The Hogyssey's pristine production and singer Royston Langdon's campy vocals take the heavily Ziggy-era Bowie-influenced band into a similar, but even higher artistic orbit than their platinum-selling debut Resident Alien. And they do it without loosing the grit of guitar work that would make Bowie's axe man, the late great Mick Ronson proud.
The first single "I Want To Live" and other stellar cuts like "This Is America" and "Strangest Dream" showcase Spacehog's knack for matching satiny smooth vocals, futuristic lyrics and simple, yet sinewy rock-and-roll riffs. It's a sonic cocktail as smooth and cool as a Tanqueray martini. Unlike the martini, however, repeated servings of Spacehog won't give you a Jupiter-sized hangover the next morning. S.D.
Our Lady Peace, Spiritual Machines (Columbia Records)
The Canadian outfit steps forward on their latest disc with a thematic opus concerning man and machine. The title is culled from Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence," and the author/inventor (Kurzweil synthesizer anyone?) even reads from his work on a few tracks. Is this then, a Canadian OK Computer? Certainly some of the tunes have a Radiohead bent to them, such as "Middle of Yesterday" or "Are You Sad?" The songs contain aural layering and chilling keyboard and guitar work that emulates the Brit band. But there's also much here that resembles the Smashing Pumpkins, whom the lads toured with and were definitely influenced by, as vocalist Raine Maida adopts that angry nasal sneer we've all come to associate with Billy Corgan.
And though you might intimate glimpses of either band, it's pure Our Lady Peace here, all the way through.
It's not only the songwriting that gets the nod here, but the production as well. Raine co-produced the disc with Arnold Lanni and Brendan O'Brien (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam). Where this trio really shines is on "All My Friends," a chaotic and multi-layered piece that continues to build, with Raine singing almost Bee-Gee like while a guitar solo weaves frenetically about.
Indeed, this could well masquerade for the album that critics thought Radiohead would follow OK Computer with. There's enough angry and schizophrenic guitar work, enough luscious layering of instruments, and enough wailing emotional vocals to please those looking for a solid rock album with a pop edge. But let's not take away anything from Our Lady Peace, who have crafted a fine disc. Simply look north, and say, "thanks, Canada. Keep it coming." B.R.
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