Aerosmith's ninth life |


Aerosmith's ninth life

On the eve of their new album, "Nine Lives," Aerosmith discusses the tensions that almost broke up the band

No, Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer’s spacious garage attic isn’t filled with toys. And if you go snooping for that group Dorian Gray portrait you figure must be tucked away somewhere, the closest you’ll find is a framed Matt Groening caricature.

But ah, sweet elixir of youth, or whatever nontoxic substance it is that’s fueling the casual jamming in Kramer’s oak-appointed, suburban Boston practice space. One by one, Joe Perry, 46, Brad Whitford, 45, and Tom Hamilton, 45, pick up their instruments and lock into a lazy funk riff that eventually reveals itself as a cool variation on (what else?) ”Walk This Way.” The attic’s landlord is nowhere in sight, but slouched over Kramer’s Plexiglas-partitioned drum set is some lucky kid with his hair hanging over his face, making it hard to tell whether he’s keeping time with the big boys intently or absentmindedly.

The kid finally looks up for a cue and, what do you know, it’s Steven Tyler — not so surprising when you remember that an eternity ago Aerosmith’s singer actually used to be an itinerant drummer on the Boston rock scene, back before the world realized he really did have a mouth on him. Maybe slipping behind the kit is Tyler’s ritualistic way of turning the miles back on the odometer a little.

When the drummer shows to take back his rightful place, Tyler, 48, quickly slips behind the mike stand and lets loose through those Lloyd’s-of-London lips a series of very convincing catcalls — Mmmrrreeeeeoooorrrrwwwrrr! — that are the soon-to-be- familiar feline preamble to ”Nine Lives,” the title track from the group’s imminent studio album, their 12th. The quintet blows through the new hyper-anthem with the spirit of a band one third their age and the prowess of a band exactly their age. Damn if, after a quarter century of making music, they don’t still have a tiger in their tank.

Come break time, Tyler ambles across the room to a table festooned with music magazines. His eye immediately seizes on the latest issue of Acoustic Guitar World, which uses a cover shot of Jimmy Page from his baby-faced Zeppelin days. Feigning disgust at Page’s preferential treatment at the hands of photo editors, Tyler mutters some profanities in the direction of a visiting journalist before brightening at the prospect of putting on a younger face himself. ”In 2013, maybe there’s hope for us,” he jokes. ”Maybe we can have masks made, so when we come out…” Ever the ham, Tyler hunches over, mimes going on stage with a cane, shielding his face with the young-Jimmy cover.

Walkers this way?

Not to worry. AARP eligibility is still a good ways off, and frontmen Tyler and Perry — nicely preserved middle-agers, both — can afford to be self-deprecating at the prospect. As Tyler’s 19-year-old actress daughter Liv marvels about her dad, ”Every time I see him I’m kind of shocked because he’s getting more beautiful every day.” How does he do that, anyway? Liv laughs. ”It’s creams.”

The music hasn’t matured much, either. Nine Lives is innuendo-drenched, reflective only when a soaring ballad’s hook demands it, and 99 5/8 percent torment-free — exactly the blend of power-ballad singles and FM-ready raunch Sony Music’s Columbia Records banked on in 1991 when it signed Aerosmith to a contract reportedly worth as much as $50 million.