|This cover was apparently offensive to someone, somewhere and withdrawn. The hell?|
Sometimes, you hit on a perspective-shifting idea completely by accident. Rhea and I were driving home from somewhere or other, engaged in part 4,234 of our never-ending debate over the parts of our respective music obsessions that we don’t agree on. Roughly defined, that would be the hair metal that she loves versus the old-school punk and indie that occupies that same space in my life. I’m not even sure now how we got to this, but at some point I uttered the following and then opened my eyes real wide-like, following its wisdom ever since: “Yeah, but you can’t blame Skid Row for not being The Replacements or vice-versa.” Ever since coming up with that one, I’ve been a lot less of a snob about things. Does that mean that I suddenly love Skid Row? Not at all; it didn’t speak to me then, and that hasn’t changed in the time since we were all teenagers. What it does mean is that I’ve learned to enjoy some things I would have previously found immediately dismissible for what they are, rather than automatically shunning them for what they aren’t.
That’s where Nine Lives comes into this little slice of autobiography: complaints that it doesn’t sound like Rocks or Toys in the Attic are absurd because it was never meant to be that sort of an album. Its competition, the barometer against which it should rightly be judged, is the band’s work from Permanent Vacation onward. Of that subset of Aerosmith albums, it’s easily the second-best; it’s no match for Pump’s concision, but Nine Lives is surprisingly spiky and live-wired for an album mean to follow up Get a Grip’s ballad-a-thon. Which is hardly to say that Nine Lives isn’t ballad-heavy; it’s got just as many of ‘em as you’d expect. It’s just that they’re better written this time around; they’re fun and sprightly, rather than labored and sludgy, which is a massive improvement.
In fact, I’m not going to go song-by-song at all this time around; apart from the frankly ridiculous “A Taste of India” and the air-played-out “Pink”, I actively enjoy all of these songs to some extent. Nine Lives is no huge masterpiece, but then again not everything needs to be. It’s a big, loud, old-school hard-rock good-time. It’s something to blast in the car on a hot summer day when you feel like looking for more trouble than you oughta be looking for at your age, and why not? You’re (probably) still younger than the guys who made it, and if your “trouble” ends up being something on the order of ordering a beer or three with your friends at, say, Applebee’s while “Pink” blares from the piped-in background music, well, so be it: fun is where you find it, musically or otherwise. If the worst thing that can be said of an album is that it’s fun, then one of the best things that can be said of it is that it does its job well.
Ladies and gentlemen, troublemakers of all ages, I give you Nine Lives…and encourage you, with every ounce of sincerity in my soul, to have fun with it.
[Meta-note: Yeah, I know, the blog background: where's the LP label? I’m assuming that the vinyl on this one is fairly rare, given that (a) Rhea doesn’t even own it, and (b) I can’t find an image on the web to steal, so the CD label it is, at least for this week.]