Part one of an Aerosmith two-parter!
This review comes by request of, well, several readers. Done With Mirrors was Aerosmith’s first record on their new deal with Geffen. That means it wasn’t included in the massive 13 disc Box of Fire that I reviewed recently. I intended to get around to Done With Mirrors anyway, but the reader anticipation adds an interesting sort of pressure.
I know some people, like Deke over at Arena Rock, hold this album in high esteem. “36 minutes of classic Aerorock,” in his books. I know that Done With Mirrors is a bit of a cult favourite album in some ways. The band ignore all but one song in their live sets, but some fans have loved it since it came out. I think it’s possible that some readers, knowing my love for underdog albums, are hoping I’m going to come out with some really appreciative glowing observations about the album.
The fact of the matter is, I’ve never been a fan of this album. “Let the Music Do the Talking” is probably my second favourite Aero-tune ever, right after “Chip Away the Stone”. As an album, I have always found Done With Mirrors to be so-so at best, and I’ve never really warmed up to it over the years. Why is that?
I decided to do something different for this review, and listen to the album as background music while working on something else. I came away with some strong impressions, so I immediately gave it another listen. Rather than go song-by-song, I’d rather just talk about the feeling I get from the album now.
I used to think the production (by Ted Templeman) sucked. I think it could use some embellishment, but hot damn! Aren’t Joey’s drums sounding fucking awesome? Yes they are. I’d say Joey’s the MVP on Done With Mirrors, as he is so rock solid consistent right through!
I used to think the songs (all but “Let the Music Do the Talking”) were pretty much just crap. I think anyone would have to admit that these are not the catchiest tunes Aerosmith have ever written in their storied career. They do, however, rock. They rock hard. “My Fist Your Face” is exactly what it sounds like — a fist right in your face!
I used to think that Steve and the band sounded tired compared to the earlier material, or what came after. I still think that’s true, but even tired, Aerosmith were capable of blowing out the speakers with bluesy riffs and Steve’s scats. If you pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll hear that Steve’s as sassy as ever. I love the name-dropping of “Joe Perry, oooh Mr. Style.”
Compared to, say, Pump, Done With Mirrors doesn’t fare too well. Letting it stand on its own and just enjoying it as a batch of rockers, it’s actually not as bad as I remembered. Maybe all these years I just haven’t been letting it in.
Big surprise: How swampy and cool “She’s On Fire” is. No idea why it never clicked with me before. I can say the same for a few songs on this album. While very few would make my own personal road tapes, there aren’t any to skip. It’s a fair chunk of solid, hard rocking Aerosmith. No ballads, no fluff, no embarrassing forays into other genres.
Finally, gotta love the cover art and double meaning. I’ve always been fond of the packaging way before hearing the album.
Assigning a number rating is hard.
I’d say somewhere between 3.5 – 4/5 stars.