Aerosmith Must Die
Back in 1990, country-punk crank Mojo Nixon wrote a song called "Don Henley Must Die." Nixon argued that Henley was a "bloated, hairy thing" who should have stopped when the Eagles split, instead of using MTV to torment a new generation of listeners with a turgid solo career. By the same logic, Aerosmith deserves a fatwa more than any other active artist, partly because its prior offenses warrant capital punishment and partly because its latest career-resurrection plan is especially insidious.
Aerosmith released its self-titled debut 35 years ago, and this resilient cockroach of a bar band celebrated the anniversary by unveiling its own installment of Guitar Hero in late June. "This is the future," guitarist Joe Perry told Game Informer. What's frustrating about this appalling development is that Aerosmith's members should be mired in the grave -- professionally, and in some cases literally. Perry and singer Steven Tyler earned the nickname "Toxic Twins" for their drug use in the late '70s. To paraphrase Don Henley, they stabbed it with their steely knives, but they just couldn't kill the beast, with "it" being their arms, "knives" being "heroin needles" and "beast" representing the band. Perry and Tyler have retained the "Toxic Twins" moniker despite being sober for two decades, perhaps because their faces still look as fallow as the "after" images in an anti-drug pamphlet.
The Toxic Twins started melting down: Perry skipped an album, Tyler fainted during concerts. Aerosmith seemed headed for an ignoble demise, with their hair bands that followed its scummy blueprint serving as the horror-sequel offspring, until Satan intervened with a plan as three-pronged as his pitchfork.
First, Aerosmith actively participated in Run-DMC's "Walk This Way" remake, which, while relatively innocuous in itself, encouraged everything from Limp Bizkit to Crazy Town by establishing rap/rock's commercial viability. Next, in 1993, Aerosmith released "Crazy," the dubious video for which featured Tyler's teen daughter Liv performing a pole dance. Finally, in 1998, Aerosmith completed its Faustian pact by contributing the maudlin power ballad "Don't Want to Miss A Thing" to the disastrous blockbuster Armageddon. In no hurry to snatch Aerosmith's collective soul from the members' already decomposing bodies, Lucifer allowed the group to remain active, and they rewarded his patience by concocting their own devious plan for gamer infiltration.
"[Young listeners] are getting turned onto the older stuff, the so-called classic stuff... due in great part to video games," Perry told Game Informer. "There will probably be more people exposed to our music playing this game than listening to the last couple of records we've put out," added bassist Tom Hamilton. Perhaps so, though it's probably not hard to surpass the sales of a record called Honkin' on Bobo.
Unlike Journey's Atari cartridge Escape, which pioneered the "video game as musician's vanity project" genre, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith doesn't conjure enemies such as "love-crazed groupies." Nor will players have access to the cutting-edge technology demonstrated in Aerosmith's "Amazing" video, such as the ability to "enter cyberspace" by using an ungainly helmet and the power to administer an "attitude adjustment" (apparently, some sort of virtual date-rape drug) to Alicia Silverstone. Instead, players must ignore the ghoulish machinations of Tyler's elastic clown mouth while trying to concentrate on boring blues progressions. Eventually, they reach the game's only real challenge, one of those ridiculous latter-day Guitar Hero "boss battles" with Joe Perry. Players can disrupt Perry by breaking his strings and warping his whammy bar, but they'd fare better with a complete arsenal of distractions, such as unsold copies of his embarrassing solo albums, or a shiny, relapse-baiting crack vial.
Interview segments mark the beginning of each level. These choppily edited conversations are subtitled even though they're not difficult to understand, perhaps because people might be skeptical that even Aerosmith's members could be saying such stupid things. In his definitive quote, Tyler says of the group's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inauguration ceremony "I thought you had to wear a condom or something to be inducted," showing the pitiful limits of both his vocabulary and his sense of humor.