Astonished is what I was to get through all of the Aerosmith guitarist’s healthy slab of blues-rock, which surprisingly encompasses his fourth solo album in addition to four with The Joe Perry Project, only to find this hypnotic yet cathartic gem buried toward the end.
It just sort of crept up on me that Joe Perry might kind of ROCK about three years ago or so. Growing up in the ’90s I always found Aerosmith a tad gimmicky, catering to MTV with sort of half-rock half-comedy concessions like “Pink,” and the spicy hooks in “Amazing” and “Cryin’” probably outweighing any guitar virtuosity that might be taking place in terms of matting the song together. The musical innards seemed obscured by personality, in other words, which is conducive to celebrity culture but not so much to albums that are going to soundtrack lonely or formative nights in your life.
Well, ironically, Joe Perry’s album Sweetzerland Manifesto is both beautiful and also pointedly belying of this bow to pop culture, eschewing sense of humor for pure, undeniable musical character that bubbles forth in the form of ebullient but genuine rock and roll songs. From the looks of it, “Eve of Destruction” is the only cover populating Sweetzerland, the rest of the songs featuring Joe Perry as at least one writing hand.
Now, we’ve just gotten through a year where Weezer’s cover of “Africa” was the biggest hit in rock (for the record Umphrey’s Mcgee treated it firstly and did a he**uva job on it too, as they usually do with versions), and maybe this time we’re living in, with music so readily accessible and studio techniques honed but the formulas in rock songwriting more tired, finds cover versions more sensible and palatable. Either way, not only is “Eve of Destruction” an excellent choice, as it’s already a way underrated and underexposed tune from the mid-’60s (the original Barry McGuire version happens to rock too), but it’s orchestrated with such flair and dark directness and… da**, can you believe Joe Perry’s not a born vocalist? I can’t.