Forget for a moment that Aerosmith has been singing adolescent hard-rock songs for more than 25 years now; that the group is contractually obligated to continue doing so until its members are in nursing homes; and that band leaders Steven Tyler and Joe Perry have both developed hideous, Jagger-esque, rubber-mask faces. Just listen to Nine Lives, the band's 12th studio albumthat's not counting the live albums, the greatest-hits collections, or the two box setsand you'll find that Aerosmith hasn't really softened or lost its ability to crank out urgent, libidinous rock music. It's odd to hear strings on the otherwise balls-out "The Farm," just as the Eastern instrumentation on the six-minute "Taste Of India" sound like a calculated attempt to showcase musical maturity. But there's no shortage of guitar thunder and saucy wailing throughout Nine Lives, and for every "Taste Of India," there's at least one song like the self-explanatorily titled "Pink." Of course, the requisite radio-ready ballads ("Hole In My Soul," et al) will saturate MTV for the next year or two, but at least they're not terrible, and there aren't as many as you've come to expect. Besides, the remainder of the album is decidedly worthy of Aerosmith's rich legacy.