Aerosmith is now a hard-rock act that is 100 percent clean of drugs and alcohol. And it's something the party-to-the-limit band members are sick and tired of hearing about it.

"People think because we were clean we've changed," said lead singer Steven Tyler. "The kids aren't fooled. They know we're not reading Bibles and going to drug clinics every day. We're playing the same kind of hard-rockin' music we've always played. And we're having more fun at it."Tyler makes no bones about it: He doesn't like the press' constant harping on the band's once infamous drug habits. Or their much celebrated stints in drug rehabilitation.

"The press has jumped on the fact we're clean and they've created the false impression we no longer rock 'n' roll," he said bitterly. "I'm sick of it. That's all they want to talk about."

Aerosmith, whose current LP "Permanent Vacation" is currently at No. 12, will be in concert on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Salt Palace. Opening will be White Lion.

For more than 15 years, the Boston-based Aerosmith has been one of America's hardest working bands, touring longer and harder than any other. The touring has paid dividends in terms of dedicated fans and superb record sales - all despite the fact that critics hated Aerosmith.

Now, for reasons Tyler can't explain, the critics like Aerosmith's blues-rooted music.

"When Rolling Stone gives us a good review, it makes you sit back and say, `What did I do wrong,' " Tyler said. "We certainly didn't go away to summer school to learn new tricks. This is the same kind of music we played when they hated us."

Aerosmith's career has been a rocky one from the beginning. The band cultivated a hard-rocking, live-for-today image.

"We didn't think about pension plans and all that," said guitarist Joe Perry. "We were working on getting dates to play, getting a demo to rec-ord companies, getting a record out. We didn't even expect to see age 30."

All five members of Aerosmith spent many of the intervening years living a lifestyle of excess. Perry and lead singer Steven Tyler pushed the edge closest of all - until last year, when both checked into New England drug recovery clinics.

They've been drug- and alcohol-free ever since, as have drummer Joey Kramer, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Brad Whitford. The group's current concert tour is chemical-free, too: Neither the band nor the road crew is drinking so much as a beer, and the band turned down a sponsor offer from a major tobacco company.

"You never learn until you hit bottom," said Tyler. "You don't realize the same stuff that makes you feel good today will kill you tomorrow."

As much as Tyler doesn't like to admit it, the band has matured, both musically and personally. They have even adopted causes. The band included a plug for Greenpeace on a recent album, and food drives at concerts have raised more than 20 tons of food for the needy.

"In 1973, I cared about rock 'n' roll," said Tyler. "I guess now I've opened up a bit to other things around me."

Musically, the band displays a diversity that has the band riding its most successful LP in years and the highest-charting single ever, the ballad "Angel" (holding steady at No. 3).

"We play heavy metal, yes," said Tyler. "But that's not the point. We're also a ballad band, a blues band, a rock 'n' roll band. A lot of grandmas out there like Aerosmith because of `Angel.' A lot of kids love us because of `Dude Looks Like a Lady.' We're so versatile we can play it all."

And they can play it without the intoxicating effects of drugs or alcohol. "Day to day, it's a struggle," Tyler said.