mon 25/01/2021

CD: AC/DC – Rock or Bust | reviews, news & interviews

CD: AC/DC – Rock or Bust

CD: AC/DC – Rock or Bust

Ancient Australian combo defy the odds and turn it up to 11

For those about to rock, send for the Phyllosan

The future's uncertain and the end is always near, as Jim Morrison put it, and you wonder how long Oz's antique rockers can keep cranking it up. After 41 years, most of them vastly successful, they're now missing guitarist and riff-creator Malcolm Young (who's suffering from dementia), while it's not clear whether drummer Phil Rudd is still on board after a drugs bust and allegations that he was trying to get somebody killed.

The future's uncertain and the end is always near, as Jim Morrison put it, and you wonder how long Oz's antique rockers can keep cranking it up. After 41 years, most of them vastly successful, they're now missing guitarist and riff-creator Malcolm Young (who's suffering from dementia), while it's not clear whether drummer Phil Rudd is still on board after a drugs bust and allegations that he was trying to get somebody killed.

Despite all that, Rock or Bust, their 16th studio album, manages to deliver a few jolts of the old megaton swagger. Angus Young is still there on lead guitar, and judging by the video clip for "Play Ball" is still wearing those ghoulish schoolboy outfits which you'd have thought might provoke arrests and banner-waving protests these days. Vocalist Brian Johnson continues to yowl as though somebody has put battery acid in his Kookaburra chardonnay, while additional powerchordage is applied by clan member Stevie Young, a nephew of Angus and Malcolm.

Recording gadgetry being what it is, and aided by producer Brendan O'Brien, this is still a plausible facsimile of the classic AC/DC sound, even if several of the songs might easily have been assembled from samples snipped from their back catalogue. Or even somebody else's back catalogue, judging by the echoes of Zeppelin's "Black Dog" in the frankly sludge-like "Rock the House". Most of the lyrics don't bear thinking about ("dogs of war...soldiers of fortune" Johnson intones farcically in "Dogs of War", like Richard Burton in The Wild Geese), and do you really want to go anywhere near a song called "Emission Control"?

But let's zoom in on the good bits. It opens with the title track, a thunderous throbbing thing which spits angry chords and squittery lead guitar in all directions. As bawlalong metal anthems go, it'll work fine in a megadome. "Play Ball" is better still, cruising euphorically over a smooth-but-heavy undercarriage of bass, drums and guitars, with a neat little upward-sliding riff for good measure. Very serviceable too is "Rock the Blues Away", a flat-out slab of raunch with a lighter-waving chorus on top, while "Hard Times" drops the tempo for a crunchy, bluesy feel vaguely reminiscent of Free on decibel-steroids. Back in Black this ain't. It's not even Black Ice. But it'll do.

Overleaf: watch video for "Play Ball"

Angus Young still wears those ghoulish schoolboy outfits which you'd have thought might provoke arrests and banner-waving protests these days

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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