(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )
The other day one of my tenth-grade students stuck her head into my room and announced, "Mr. Orteza, Steven Tyler is forty-nine today!" to which I replied, "Wow! He hardly looks a day over seventy!" Seriously, I fully expected Nine Lives, coming as it would after a four-year layoff during which all manner of mid-life crises could’ve easily distracted the band from why God put them on earth in the first place, to signal the beginning of the end for these grandfathers-to-be.
Then it debuted at number one, indicating that Aerosmith still has what it takes to separate people from their money. It's not hard to see why. With John Kalodner--the band's platinum-savvy guru from their Geffen years--still calling shots, the tunes practically reek with filthy lucre. The title cut explodes with booming drums and colossal guitars. "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" reprises both the double entendres of "Love in an Elevator" and the heavy-metal horns of "Dude (Looks like a Lady)." "Hole in My Soul" joins the power ballads "Angel," "What It Takes," and "Cryin'" in giving Aerosmith's girl fans something to sway to, and through it all Tyler shrieks and screams as if someone has just held a mirror up to his face. Whether it's dirty-old-man talk about why pink is his favorite color ("Pink") or sensitive-'90s-guy talk about why missing children make him cry ("Crash"), he really puts his rubbery lips into it.
On the other hand, like most hour-long rock albums, Nine Lives overstays its welcome by twenty minutes or so. Even more telling, the fine print reveals that the band needed not only Kalodner but also song doctors like Desmond Child and Glen Ballard to come up with the forty good minutes it eventually came up with. Still, for those forty minutes, Aerosmith sounds as if it knows the difference between merely making millions and having fun while doing it. Those who think these geezers will be calling Dr. Kevorkian any time soon should dream on.