Sunday Morning Record Review. Maybe the first in a series. Stay tuned.
1979’s Night in the Ruts is nobody’s favorite Aerosmith record. Recorded when the group was at the height of their druggy excess and when they had all begun to be sick of each other, especially Toxic Twins Perry and Tyler, it sounds to me like a sloppy, half-assed, junk-sick kinda of weird masterpiece.
Case in point- lead track “No Surprize”. Why the “Z”? Who the hell knows? It’s ostensibly a summing up of the band’s career to that point, but it boasts some slyly funny lines from Tyler (“Vaccinate your ass with a phonograph needle”) and for his part, Perry just plugs in and does relentless no-break Chuck Berry chunka-chunka-chunka-chunka, only stopping for a three-and-six-note punctuation breaks before chunka-chunkaing again…allowing the rest of the band to surf along on a sea of Jagermeister. It has a stoned low-key urgency, and before you know it the momentum builds…by the time the song’s done you’re surprised to find your head bobbing. Well, I was anyway.
Well done, fellas. The rest of the album- “Chiquita”, with crosscut saw guitar and low key buzzy horns, rocks me even better than its predecessor; “Reefer Head Woman” is a hilarious blues that you just KNOW they smoked an ounce each just to record, and there’s a solid cover of the old song “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” that never had a chance to be a hit. It doesn’t always work; stumbling, would-be slide blues “Cheese Cake” doesn’t live up to its title, “Think About It” sounds like a retread of better songs like “Toys in the Attic” and “Rats in the Cellar” (Itself a retread). “Mia” aspires to the bathetic “Dream On” and achieves its modest goal.
I was pleasantly surprised upon revisiting this record; sometimes an album jumps up out of nowhere and bites me on the ass. Night in the Ruts doesn’t really bite that hard, but it sure sneaks up on you and nibbles. And that’s all right.