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“Draw The Line” (Album Review)
By Richard Riegel
Aerosmith have arrived for good mates. Just check out the packaging of their new album: the front and back covers not only lack the emerging group-logo which graced their last two LPs, but also dispense with the title of the set. Instead, the denizens who haunt the record racks will be greeted with a black-and-white caricature of the group members (by Al Hirschfeld, no less) and a no-frills listing of the song titles. Only those potential buyers already acquainted with Steven Tyler’s overbite (or those hip enough to turn the LP spine side-up ) will know that they’re holding Aerosmith’s “Draw The Line” in their cash crossed palms; Aerosmith are playing in Led Zeppelin’s if-you-have-to-tell’em-who-you-are-you-ain’t-made-it-baby! league now.
Aerosmlth is thus’ solidly anchored to ride out the shifting currents of rock taste in the late 70’s, both on the album-sales charts, and in concert arenas that have always welcomed them. Aerosmith emerged at just the right time(1973)to make a gigantic name for themselves; despite Steven Tyler’s flirtations with various Jagger-derivative posturings over the years, Aerosmith’s real appeal has always been the bare fact that they play sophisticated hard rock better than just about anybody else in the the business. That ability was a sufficient, almost excessive, attribute for contenders entering the rock doldrums of the early 70’s, but with hard rock long since restored to its legitimacy (if not primacy), the race to exploit quirks which individualize bands is once again overturning everybody’s standards of ascendancy.
In a sense, Aerosmith are much more like the Rolling Stones than either their fans or their detractors would have them. The Stones have stayed in power and prominence for 15 years by sticking right to the guidelines Andrew Loog Oldham laid down for them in 1963, by taking fewer chances than their competitors, and they’ve weathered every change of style or taste, no matter how radical,in the process. So what if the old guard didn’t like Black and Blue; the record-buyers, in ever younger waves validated it.
Aerosmith have grown relatively little in musical vision since their first album, but everybody who was along for that exhilarating set has stayed loyal to the band and their consistent sound. I should know, I’ve been addicted to that supple Joe Perry-Brad Whitford guitar chug ever since I first’ heard it in 1973. Aerosmith have steadily deepened their fans’ hook dependency, by providing the visceral hooks that compliment the cerebral variety dispensed by their label-mate hookmeisters in Blue Oyster Cult.
“Draw The Line” advances Aerosmith a half-notch (at most) on up their great chain of being, but the accustomed pleasures of their sound are, well, quite comfortably reiterated. “Draw The Line” frequently invokes Aerosmith’s (or
probably Tyler’s) songwriting formula, that of seizing some cliche or figure of speech, objectifying it with a hard-rock background and a correspondingly vague plot, at last making it stand on its own as a kind of born-again bromide. Need we recall “Back In The Saddle,” “Sick As A Dog,” and “Get The Lead Out,” all on Rocks alone? Draw The ‘Line adds to our collection of Rock & Roll idioms-“The’ Hand That ‘Feeds,” “Get It Up,” “Sight for Sore Eyes,” “Critical Mass” (a rather neat. pun, by the way), and its own title cut. The kineticism in each of these cuts is as patentedly Aerosmith as the concept itself; “Draw The Line,” with its echoed, pulsating fuzzhook, is a particularly tough opener.
Get It Up”‘s lyrics worry over our old nemesis of secondary impotence, but the rock-hard music doesn’t suffer either variety of that dysfunction. Joe Perry’s “Bright Light Fright”, laments the numbing road life of rock bands for one more go-round, but his version is somehow more compelling than most other guitar-pilgrims, presumably because he moves in higher circles of superstardom.
Speaking of which, Tyler’s “I Wanna Know Why (everbody’s good intentions gotta make a fool outta me)” just may concern that same continued promotion of Joe Perry at Tyler’s charisma-expense, but Steve always was more super-schemiel than star anyhow.
For now (and most,likely for a long time to come), Aerosmith are solidly with us, and it just may be that there is something to be said for surviving the 70’s together.
January 13, 1973 Aerosmith
March 1, 1974 Get Your Wings
April 8, 1975 Toys in the Attic
May 3, 1976 Rocks
December 1, 1977 Draw the Line
October 1978 Live Bootleg
November 1, 1979 Night in the Ruts
August 1, 1982 Rock in a Hard Place
November 9, 1985 Done with Mirrors
April 1986 Classics Live
June 1987 Classics Live Vol. 2
September 5, 1987 Permanent Vacation
September 8, 1989 Pump
April 20, 1993 Get a Grip
March 18, 1997 Nine Lives
October 20, 1998 A Little South of Sanity
March 6, 2001 Just Push Play
March 30, 2004 Honkin’ on Bobo
October 25, 2005 Rockin’ the Joint