1. Back In The Saddle
2. Last Child
3. Rats In The Cellar
5. Sick As A Dog
6. Nobody's Fault
7. Get The Lead Out
8. Lick And A Promise
9. Home Tonight
Ever remember that anti-substance advert years ago where the viewer was presented with the image of an egg in a pan, frying and it was accompanied by the line “This is your brain on drugs”? You do? Good. Well fuck the egg; they should have just used a copy of “Rocks” by Aerosmith! There is no other record ever made that sounds anywhere near as twisted as this bastard – it is one hell of a listening experience!
The year was 1976, and every uncle jack, motorcycle cat and his gypsy whore were chasing the dragon and wearing their needles out to “Rocks” (see what I did there?) This album is a bona-fide, mind bending masterpiece from start to finish - rattling and shaking, twisting and turning, scurrying and grinding along. I’m sure many Aerosmith fans will agree it is one of their best, if not their best ever output and disproves the theory (or facts….whatever) that “drugs are bad for you!” I mean, just have a fucking listen to what you can accomplish while being shamelessly intoxicated….
"We were doing a lot of drugs by then, but you can hear that whatever we were doing, it was still working for us." - Joe Perry
Let’s get one thing straight right now though – I am not an Aerosmith fan, because I only really dig this record and the band’s 1985 failed comeback album “Done With Mirrors”. I just think they nailed that true, bluesy bar sound on both records where their other 1970s output seems too dated even for me and their later 80s – present work is just soulless garbage, devoid of any grit. Plus, I strain my ears and struggle to hear Joe Perry’s guitar at all (sometimes I even question his existence!?) on that stuff.
But “Rocks” is awesome, there’s just no doubting, as tons of musicians from the hard rock community cite it as an inspiration and it has featured on so many greatest albums lists that there’s probably some clapped out printer somewhere with the cover ghosted permanently into its job menu. Aerosmith were four albums into their career and even though things may have been showing signs of going off the rails (vocalist Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry’s drug abuse contributing heavily – they were dubbed the toxic twins), they pulled together to create some fabulous, riff-tastic music – the band’s magnum opus - that blew most other bands of that decade out of the fucking water! “Rocks” is Aerosmith certainly, at their most dangerous and dirty, delving face first into soon-to-be typical themes of; sex, drugs and fame.
“Back In The Saddle” comes swelling in, ambling up and firmly boots this rock n’ roll steed into action. The song is mainly about sex, maybe cowboy sex, so it’s crammed with innuendo. The rhythm section is great and the song is a fine opener. “Last Child” announces itself with a bad ass, motherfucker of a funky-monkey butt bass line. The song is built completely around the bass and the rest of the guys just jam along while Steven Tyler spits out raspy verse upon verse. “Last Child” is really the first song on here that shows off the complexity of a lot of these new song structures the band was employing. “Rats In The Cellar” charges in full pelt with a very “Toy In The Attic” vibe and never lets up, it’s classic Aerosmith and beats the living shit out of anything that “Toys…” had to offer and pretty much everything after, that these rag doll junkies cooked up. “Rats…” has become something of a signature tune for me on a night out. They have that sucker on the juke at my usual haunt, so every bar room bum knows I’m there to get loaded and I mean business. “Combination” is fucking weird, plus Joe Perry handles the lead vocal duties although again, you’d be hard pressed to notice first time. The song is about mixing liquor and hard shit like crack and heroin, which probably made up a large percentage of Aerosmith’s intake during studio sessions. “Sick As A Dog” has a cool riff and some quirky lyrics – apparently the song details the meeting of Steven Tyler and his hero Mick Jagger. “Nobody’s Fault” hands down takes the crown for the best song on here - in my opinion, it’s also the best Aerosmith song period and easily one of the greatest rock songs in history. It’s another weird as hell track, heavy as fuck for these guys at the time and they’ve not come close to this sonically crushing level since. “Nobody’s Fault” comes blasting out of the speakers after a spacey little intro, booming cryptic lyrics, almost pained backing vocals, a staggering drunk of a chorus and a guitar solo that sounds like a cat with a kazoo up its ass. Again, good shit (Testament’s 1988 cover is also worth checking out). “Get The Lead Out” is another rocking riff machine, bluesy as fuck and keeps up the high standards set by all the previous tunes – the lyrics are great. “Lick And A Promise” is about going out and putting on the best show you can and winning the audience over every single time. I’d say that this is my second favourite song on “Rocks”, right after “Nobody’s Fault”, it’s totally raucous - gang vocals sound a little strange again, and it drives the album at max speed to the finale. “Home Tonight” is pretty much about fame and being on the road, with the guys getting all introspective. As album closers go, it fits very well, almost a cathartic come down from the sassy onslaught that preceded it. Not really a ballad, as it has way too much balls, but still a somewhat touching anthem which features a lot of classy guitar fills laid over the top.
“Rocks” is stunning, intriguing, excellent and an essential piece of music to own, whether you are an Aerosmith fan or not. The album has deserved all of the accolades it has already gained and deserves many more still. A hard rock classic that the band should be proud of and one which they should look back to for some well needed inspiration. It’s always and absolute pleasure to listen to and I cannot recommend it highly enough to you dear reader.
© Flash Metal Circus