The title of Aerosmith’s 13th studio album instructs fans to Just Push Play. But they might want to know which tracks to Just Program Out: specifically, the inevitable power ballads included in hopes of capitalizing on the Top 40 omnipotence of 1998’s ”I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and ”Angel” before that. Well, rock hounds, let’s just say you won’t miss a thing by skipping tracks 4, 8, and 12.
Then there are a couple of ”hip-hop-influenced” numbers, so you may want to delete songs 2 and 9. Steven Tyler has more of a right to rap than most, having partaken in that early summit with Run-DMC, and his run-on bad puns predate hip-hop’s silly similes. But do we really need a scratching credit on an Aerosmith record? While we’re making programming recommendations, you might think about jettisoning tune 10, which features a stiff lead vocal from Joe Perry, who’s usually been content to let the music do the talking since his early-’80s solo projects.
Or maybe you shouldn’t touch that dial just yet: All the aforementioned selections, whatever their conceptual shortcomings, do have killer choruses to recommend ’em. And the remaining seven tracks provide fewer potholes on the freeway to the refrain. By now you know what to expect — or hope for — from latter-day Aerosmith: opening twin guitar riffs emphasizing the dirty side of the Strat, clean choruses lifting off into an unapologetic pop stratosphere, and strategic howling from Tyler, every bit the alley cat in sickness and in health. Particularly deft examples include ”Jaded” (think Zep’s ”Dancing Days” by way of Marshall Crenshaw), ”Beyond Beautiful,” and ”Sunshine,” all examples of how a near-subliminal string section can lift hook-laden guitar rock to the next level.
No one will mistake Play for one of the band’s best discs, but neither will anyone who enjoys the signature sound of one of America’s musical treasures fail to find pleasure in its polished, mostly ungimmicky grooves. When they’re this far into and on their game, even a Super Bowl teaming with ‘N Sync and Britney wouldn’t be enough to ward off the faithful. Speaking of which, be sure to program out track…just kidding.