Review: Fender Aerodyne Special Stratocaster

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Review: Fender Aerodyne Special Stratocaster

aerodyne stratocaster
Words by Luke Shields

Fender Music Australia | Price: $2,099

In 2003 I was halfway through my first round of tertiary education. I had stumbled, hardly aware of the gravity of the decisions I was making, out of a barely remarkable high school career and into an arts degree. For the time being, I was content to explore the adult world which I had assumed would afford me a relatively freer existence.

That period was a strange one, especially socio-politically with the obvious influence of the fall of the Twin Towers signalling the end of any sense of safety or certainty in the Western World for the foreseeable future. In artistic circles, particularly in popular music, that single incident’s shockwaves sent the collective taste skidding backwards in time like a stylus knocked back half a track by bad dancing. People were afraid of the shifting sands they had found themselves astride, and newness and invention felt all too risky in such uncertain times.

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As a result, we saw the rise of nostalgia-heavy throwback rock. Bands started wearing flared jeans and cheesecloth and/or denim and leather in an effort to seem as familiar and unthreatening as their parents’ idols from England in the ’60s and/or New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s. This schlock and narcotic addiction to avenues already thoroughly explored meant that the more unique a sound was, the less likely it was to catch a break. Musical instruments, unfortunately, fell foul of that same fate. It would be a good decade before we would see anything innovative peering through the thickening cloud of deja vu, and even when it did begin clearing, rock ‘n roll had suffered so much from the saccharine balm of nostalgia as to become a parody of itself. It took hip-hop and electronica to shake the world from its creative slumber.

Hindsight is 20/20 and from where we sit now, 20-some years later we can see the upshot of that regression. Nostalgia gave rise to the reign of reclaimed and vintage gear, which in turn spawned the battalion of bespoke and boutique manufacturers. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and now we have a market brimming with kooks putting liquid in their electronic devices, small companies laughing all the way to the bank off the back of designs they concocted, and continually manufacture, in basements and granny flats across the suburbs, and a particularly healthy market for concepts from bigger companies that probably should have been left to the annals of history. 

Fender has prided itself across its storied history on embracing, sometimes to a fault, innovation as one of its primary motivations. The Aerodyne line of guitars was one as such and just so happened to fall smack bang in the middle of the aforementioned period where newness was the devil’s work. Despite that, as difficult as it was, this small range of sleek, modern, scantily clad but work-ready instruments managed to make it all the way to the sea of favour like hatchling turtles. Thanks to finding relative popularity among odd fringe scenes like post-hardcore, avant-jazz and fusion, and the unmistakable level of Japanese build quality, the Aerodynes maintained affectionate niche interest in much the same way as Eastern European archtops and modular synthesisers.

Post-war propaganda would have you believe that the only guitar worth owning is an American one and that anything manufactured in Asia has a lower price tag because it is not nearly as thoroughly quality controlled. Alas, this assertion is proving to have been dead wrong all along. Anyone who has ever tried a lawsuit-era Tokai, Greco, Aria, or Ibanez, or equally one of the more recent Japanese Fender builds, will attest unreservedly to that fact. The new Aerodyne Specials, like the striking Chocolate Burst Strat I see before me, continue if not amplify the rich tradition of unparalleled bang-for-your-buck playability and immaculate sonics that those who know better swear by.

This is not a Super Strat in the truest sense of the term, but it is a souped-up variation on the theme for which there is no doubt. Aerodynes have always been fondly remembered for the almost spacecraft-like, subtle curvature of the body, hence the name. This gentle arc across both the top and back makes the guitar feel featherweight in your lap while maintaining enough of a weighty presence to not feel imaginary. Couple that with a 12” radius rosewood fretboard, and you have a guitar that is ready to move through modes as fast as you can remember them. The pickups are voiced for ultimate presence, scooped a little through the mids to reveal almost wispy highs that are sure to shine through even the most gruelling fuzz circuit you have at your disposal. The 2-point Babicz Full Contact Hardware (or FCH) bridge and deluxe locking tuners feel sturdy enough to anchor you to the ground while your fingers flit through the clouds like sparrows. All in all, it feels and sounds like an expertly made guitar for expertly practised guitarists. Sleek, ergonomic, and effortless playing with a voicing to match.

As with the Tele from the same family, this is not your run-of-the-mill Strat. It is a Strat from a timeline where intellectuals and innovators are not treated like mad scientists, hesitantly glanced askance and hurried towards the red-tape wringer of the patent office where their wild ideas are sure to be whittled down to nubs. In this timeline, no one has ever been scared of change, and as a result, we progressed exponentially as people who make music as much as people who enjoy it.

Proud of our past, we use it as a propellant towards a brighter future, not a grindstone at which we trudge the same cycle ad nauseam until we collapse. If you have envelopes to push, boundaries to test, and theories to prove, the Fender Aerodyne Stratocaster is the one for you.

Head to Fender for more information. For local enquiries, reach out to Fender Music Australia.