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Aerosmith - Nine Lives review


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Band: Aerosmith
Album: Nine Lives
Release date: March 1997

01. Nine Lives
02. Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)
03. Hole In My Soul
04. Taste Of India
05. Full Circle
06. Something's Gotta Give
07. Ain't That A Bitch
08. The Farm
09. Crash
10. Kiss Your Past Goodbye
11. Pink
12. Falling Off
13. Attitude Adjustment
14. Fallen Angels

They may have had nine lives, but they are starting to sound like they are on life support.

After a run of albums starting with Done With Mirrors over ten years prior, Aerosmith had been able to carry over and build on their momentum going forward on each subsequent release; eventually that run had to come to an end, and unfortunately Nine Lives pulls the short straw. Where the band had danced on the demarcation line between rock and pop band on Get A Grip and used this mixing of styles to great success, on Nine Lives this precarious balance collapses all around the band to create an album full of ideas but without the talent or focus to wield them into world beaters, or even songs that appeal well to all those they've cast their net over.

Nine Lives is an album that doesn't shy away from trying to appeal a broad audience, but in its attempts to please all they please few. Taking the approach of creating separate songs for separate types of fan (pop, rock, and ballads) rather than try to blend these into the same song like on prior records, the band take a risk that fails spectacularly. If one aspect of the album fails to live up to expectation (the rock tracks in particular), that section of the audience is left with little, especially as few of the other songs are likely to appeal to them.

Whether it was a means of sounding fresh and rejuvenating their sound or as a means to cloak areas of the songs they didn't want listeners to focus on, the greater use of more experimental themes and sounds is used almost like a plaster than a serious attempt at evolving their style. Tracks like "Taste Of India" and "Full Circle" jump in headfirst and fully indulge in utilizing the sitar, pub sing-a-longs and other effects where the rest of the album takes bits here and there, mixing it in with the band's pre-existing sound. Does it work? Well it adds something to the album, but you come to realize it's used to plug in gaps rather than enhance the songs themselves, to avoid sounding stale they just throw in parts here and there to give what would otherwise be a dead spot a bit of life and flair.

It is the rock songs here that suffer the most from the band's new direction; usually some of the strongest moment on an Aerosmith album, here they are easily the weakest. "Something's Gotta Give" and "Crash" sound like the band threw something together to appease this section of the audience to allow greater focus elsewhere. Both crank up the guitars but it's all talking loud but saying nothing.

The biggest problem with Nine Lives is that it is overblown and bloated; where some ideas could have been combined or left off, the band instead try to find a way to incorporate them all, all the while blind to the aspect of quality control. "Fallen Angels" is a great track but could easily be shorter rather than 8 minutes long; the same can be said of "Ain't That A Bitch", "Hole In My Soul", "Kiss Your Past Good-Bye" and "Crash". Much of the aforementioned dead spots could have been avoided had they been more willing to trim down the songs rather than cram everything they can onto this record.

While this sounds like Nine Lives is a spectacular failure it isn't; it is a good album that got buried underneath the huge wave of expectation placed upon it under a run of successively more popular albums. Aside from a few singles, the album had an anchor tied to it pulling it under that it could not overcome. While the album is bloated with ideas, there are hooks, licks, riffs and lines that will make you sit up and pay attention, glimmers of hope that although Aerosmith are taking a few steps beyond what they normally do, they haven't lost their ability to craft a good song or idea.

"Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)", "Nine Lives", "Fallen Angels" and "Attitude Adjustment" are solid songs and show that underneath everything else, the band's talent is still evidently there, though presented in a new fashion that doesn't quite fit the band. For all my mention of the album being bloated, it is ironically two songs that were included on the international releases that serve to be the album sessions' strongest moments: "Falling Off" and "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing".

The band are on strong form, showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to their abilities over 20 years on. Shirley's production job manages to incorporate all the different elements the band are throwing his way, but at the same time he does leave something to be desired in places. There are moments like in the verses of "Nine Lives" where the power seems to evaporate and the momentum stutters a bit before being rejuvenated by the chorus.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 7
Production: 7

Written on 14.09.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 6 users
01.08.2022 - 15:36
Rating: 3

We reach 'Nine Lives' and Aerosmith are in cruise control, able to knock off (now indisputably) totally out of fashion radio rock that will still appeal to (primarily) listeners of a certain vintage and old school persuasion. The times have changed but why should this band care?
So we get even more heavy handed power ballads plus some attempted mysticism/exotica in places...and nary a tune anyone outside of being a card carrying Aerosmith fan club member would ever really want to listen to ahead of the band's established hits.

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