REVIEW: Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors (1985)

Part one of an Aerosmith two-parter!

AEROSMITH DONE WITH MIRRORS_0001AEROSMITH – Done With Mirrors (1985 Geffen)

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.

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26 comments

  1. Oh Yeah I love me the Aeroslop of Done With Mirrors! Before I forget thanks for the plug on my review! I dig and hear what your saying Mikey but for me and Tbone its just one of those albums at at the time of DWM’s release we were a couple of 19 yr old Knuckleheads and Aero puts out what sounds like which probably is a live studio record! Sounds stoned..yup…sloppy playing..yup yup….Tyler with some fine lyrics..yup yup yup ! Ha…seriously though just one of those albums that just sticks to you like glue or gum hahahaha…..
    Great review and nice surprise fella!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is awesome when an album that was previously a write off can finally be appreciated. Sometimes listening to it in a different way changes the perspective. Sometimes I take just one cd with me in the car and listen to it over and over. I often find new notes or beats I never noticed before. After numerous listens to an album I sometimes hate it even worse, or more often appreciate it a little more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know as I get older I have come to appreciate a shit ton of music that I wrote off before. There have been way to many times in my past when I assumed that something would be crap before I even listened to it. Or often buying an album for one song and playing that song over and over. Not now.

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    1. Yeah I want to stretch out a bit and do reviews in new ways. Track by track is the best way to be thorough but sometimes that’s not gonna be the best review I can write.

      I don’t think I’ve ever done a range like that before, no…I usually try to be more precise. However even now (about 2 weeks after I wrote it) I couldn’t nail it down further.

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  3. Good write. I always considered Aerosmith to be in the rock wilderness between 1980-5 and this was the album that brought them out of it for me. I happened to see them on this tour and they were great. They would have been even better if they hadn’t been playing in Philadelphia but that’s another story.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It happened in early 1979 during the Live Bootleg tour. While playing the Spectrum in Philly, during the 4th song of the set, someone chucked a bottle onto the stage, hitting Steve Tyler. The band immediately walked off stage, the bottle thrower was identified, dragged on stage and had the sh*t kicked out of him. Nothing happened for and hour and a half when Aerosmith returned and Steve Tyler announced, “Fuck you Philly, we ain’t ever coming back!”
        The did come back because I saw them in 1986. They were good but didn’t give it their all. Steve Tyler warned us not to throw anything on stage stating “Remember what happened last time.”

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  4. This one never grabbed me at all. Even with the first track, I preferred the Joe Perry version. But it’s been ages and I don’t remember much about it now. I might need to give it another go like you did and see if I feel differently now. Especially since I finally got into Live Bootleg so I should keep going!

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  5. It’s surprising how a record sounds different to us because the passing time. I am so happy that you have revalued DWM. In some way it’s the same process that I did. Ten years ago I considered DWM a bit weak, but now I find it interesting, with some good songs – My fist your face, Let the music and Shame on you – and a production that impress me. Of course, it is a work of transition, but many times these are the records that most intrigue and fascinate me. And there’s no ballads on DWM, that’s good to me! A good rock album!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have tried multiple times to get into thsi album. People has told me that it’s underrated, but I just can’t brimg myself to like it. It doesn’t suck, it’s just…. mediocre. My least favourite Aerosmith except for Just Push Play.

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