I’ve been fishing around for a theme week since the whole Kaiser Chiefs debacle. Something big. Something resourceful and ancient. I never go long in life without listening to some Aerosmith. They were my favourite band when I graduated high school. I’d managed to see them live several times by the dawn of the 1990’s despite the fact they stayed away from the UK for 14 years between their mid 70’s peek and the release of Pump. The reason for that was simple. They got pinched at airport security for their walking pharmaceutical store carry-on’s some time around Draw The Line and until they were Done With Mirrors international travel was like a game of freedom roulette for the Toxic Twins.
I really like Done With Mirrors (Props to Deke at Thunder Bay Arena Rock for tipping me off about the recently reissued DWM era live album released on white and black vinyl. I’ve played the butt off my copy) but any Rock And Roll Archaeologist worth their Fedora knows it was not the comeback record Geffen had paid for. It took the side step of Run-DMC and the accidental invention of Rap Metal to really revive this sleeping giant of a band. Once breathing again they missed no opportunity to capitalise on the capitalism of the late 80’s MTV and Arena rock scenes. The Mad Scientist behind this rebirth may have been John Kalodner. The Igor to his Frankenstein (the Drs Name not the Monster you uncultured swine) producer Bruce Fairbairn. This diabolical duo set about finding many a Ratchet and Crank to take body parts of the 70’s titans and rework them. On Hearts Done Time it was songwriter for hire Desmond Child who did the stitching. Aerosmith had been a close knit group of a band before the Rock met the Hard Place in the Crespo years. It had been a long Night In The Ruts and now the OG line up was back together they were calling all cars. Time to get using every trick in the book to make sure the second comeback album of a five album deal did not fall flat on it’s face.
This is not the craven degradation many purists may see it as. The band had done covers before (a Beatles B-Side in I’m Down), the album was still rich in virtuoso playing (the solos are on fire!), weird little asides (The Movie, St John) and genre straddling from country to heavy metal to calypso (Well, there’s steel drums on the title track anyway). Permanent Vacation’s title referred to this being their last bite at the cherry. If this one flopped. They’d be on a beach forever more talking about the old days. Send my mail to the Rosarita Beach Cafe!
I stand by my assertion that Permanent Vacation is a complex and dexterous album. It just plays like it wants to party. The Frank Zappa quoting freight train that is Girl Keeps Coming Apart should have been the metal single to smash them through the charts in my book. They went the other way with AOR airbrush bloatathon Angel.
Ragdoll’s New Orleans rag and scat singing were like rocket fuel for the bands ascension to house band for the party at the end of the 80’s. Dude (Looks Like A Lady) fed the fan rumours that Steven may identify as non-binary three and a half decades before that was even a phrase. Look, these rock dude’s are into whatever maaaaan! I’ve been present at pub debates where some corners consider that song judgmental and offensive and others point out the lyrics are respectful and romantic. Ziggy Stardust, Lola and Powerman would like to point out it’s a tale as old as time.
The best case I can make for this fascinating fun and thrilling album are it’s one two punch of opening tracks. Hearts Done Time into Magic Touch tells the denim clad late 80’s mullet wearing teen that he has spent his pocket money well. It starts with whale song and a bunch of studio trickery. Then Joe Perry reclaims his crown and the tightest rock and roll band of a generation get back on the road.
That’s when it hit me. I had been saying I needed a theme week. That’s just it! Big! Resourceful! Ancient! Welcome Folks. Welcome to Whale Week!