Tuesday, February 14, 2012

[AeroTuesday] "Toys in the Attic" (1975)

[Meta-note: feeling much better this week, thanks.  I'll be retooling last week's head-full-of-phlegm Get Your Wings piece sometime later on this week.]

In some ways, I feel about Toys in the Attic as I did about Cheap Trick at Budokan when I was writing about that band's albums: yes, it's great.  Every bit as great as it's cracked up to be, in fact.  But what can I possibly tell you about it that you don't already know?

That's a good question.  We'll start with the obvious: I'll assume that, given the fact that you're savvy enough in the ways of the world to have gotten online and found this blog, you already know everything about every last beat, note and howl of "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion."  If by some strange collision of events in your life you don't have every note of either song branded into your gray matter, go forth and be dazzled by the funky beats, facile riffs, and lyrics that blow past merely clever and head straight on 'til morning.  Some classic rock becomes classic merely because it's on the radio all the damned time.  These two songs were birthed as classics; I can only picture some teen-dork listening to the album for the first time sometime back in '75 and knowing what he was going to be hearing all summer long.  Were I not one year old at the time, said teen-dork could well have been me.

I mentioned beats twice in the last paragraph, so let's take a moment to give the drummer his due.  If I claim that Joey Kramer was the first drummer in a loud, badass rock band to consistently bring the funk behind the kit, I'm sure somebody will immediately bitch that so-and-so did it first.  So I won't.  Instead, I'll say that Joey Kramer was the first drummer in a loud, badass rock band to master consistently bringing the funk behind the kit.  There's a clear through-line from Kramer's groundbreaking work to otherwise dissimilar bands like Killing Joke in the '80s or Therapy? in the '90s who also thought it might be a good idea to wed their sledgehammer rock to beats you could do something other than march to.

But what of the rest of Toys in the Attic?  The other two semi-hits were the speedy title track and the blues cover "Big Ten Inch Record."  The former is a favorite; as you may well have surmised by now if you've nosed around elsewhere in this blog, I'm a sucker for the fast-and-punchy ones.  "Big Ten Inch Record" is an enduring fan favorite with good reason, but somehow I've never really grown to love it.  It's great, don't get me wrong - it does exactly what it sets out to do - but it's just never clicked with me for some reason.  Weird, I know, but our ears are like that sometimes.

What else have we got on this platter?  Well, there's "Round and Round", one of those Brad Whitford-helmed monsters that I just love, that I thought was the HEAVIEST GOD DAMNED THING I'D EVER HEARD when I first encountered it as a teen-dork in the late '80s, at least until I heard the follow-up to it on their next LP (relax, we'll cover it in full next week).  There's "Uncle Salty" and "Adam's Apple", great rockers with the sort of brilliantly crafted lyrics Steven Tyler just kinda left on the vinyl as though it was no big deal in those days, only they still dazzle writers like me all these decades later.  There's "No More No More" a clever slice of life-in-the-band that sends Jon Bon Jovi and his steel horse a-packin' ten years before the fact.  Lastly, there's the grand finale: "You See Me Crying."  It's funny that seemingly-identical ballads would become a thorn in Aerosmith's artistic side a couple of decades down the road, because in the '70s they were one of the few hard rock bands who knew how to make 'em, and make 'em count.  "You See Me Crying" isn't "Dream On", which isn't "Seasons of Wither", which isn't "Home Tonight" - and none of those songs' respective parent albums would be quite as good as they are without them.  The fact that I was in the crowd at Jones Beach the only time "You See Me Crying" was ever played live in its entirety remains one of the cooler concert moments in my live-gig history.

The crazy part of all of this?  This isn't even their best album.  We get to that one next week.

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