Chris Willman
January 10, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

The album title is Nine Lives. And if you’re enough of a fan to suspect singer Steven Tyler might have tomcattin’ on his mind, as much as Aerosmith’s own lively knack for survival, their March 18 release should be just your cup of Meow Mix.

Then again, for a younger generation raised on single-minded, asexual angst, Tyler’s parade of double entendres could well seem anachronistic. Finding new babes as alluring as alumni Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler to front the late-40s-ish group in videos may be a tough casting call. And the apparent fall from grace of alterna-rock doesn’t necessarily mean the masses will readily step back to the ”Same Old Song and Dance.” Or does it?

Guitarist Joe Perry, for one, figures the delayed timing of the two-years-in-the-making Lives may be just right. ”I went to see Kiss when they came around and saw people of a lot of different ages just wanting to have a good time. That was heartening for me, because it was looking pretty doomy and gloomy for a while,” says Perry, no fan of mope rock. ”I just don’t get all that depressing s—, you know? There’s a part of that for everybody, and everybody has a bad day, but to sit there and watch a bunch of shoe gazers complain about not wanting to be rock stars, I mean, what the f—. [People] want to be entertained, man. You’re out there making music and hopefully gonna take people away from the problems they have for a couple hours. I don’t want to go and be reminded of it, for Christ’s sake.”

Speaking of problems, Aerosmith haven’t been without ’em lately: After they fired longtime manager (and antidrug activist) Tim Collins last summer, Collins hinted in print that Tyler might have fallen off the wagon, a rumor staunchly denied by the band. Their usual producer, Bruce Fairbairn, was tied up with the Cranberries. When they went in to cut tracks with hit producer Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, Van Halen) instead, drummer Joey Kramer was ”out of the picture for a while, for personal reasons,” Perry says. About the time they got Kramer back, they decided to scrap the Ballard sessions and start from scratch with relative unknown Kevin Shirley (silverchair, Journey).

Fortunately, the album doesn’t sound as laborious as its history. Nine Lives has more kick than its immediate predecessors, even in the inevitable power ballad or three. Not much purring here; they’ve got a tiger in their tank. ”Sonically it’s different than the last records we’ve done,” says Perry. ”There was a tendency to make things more polished, but I think it’s closer to what Aerosmith is, the heart that was beating under all that other stuff.”

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