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"I'm gonna pull it, PULL IT, PULL THE TRIGGAAAAAAAAAH!"
|Main Category:||Hard Rock|
|Also applicable:||Heavy Metal|
|Starting Period:||The Interim Years|
|Also active in:||The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties, From Grunge To The Present Day|
Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of an AC/DC fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective AC/DC fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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"Introduction"? Do these guys really need one? Well, okay. These guys come from Australia. They started out in the mid-Seventies as the most kick-ass rock'n'roll band in the Southern Hemisphere. Their lead singer was kinda funny and drank a lot of booze, so they made it real big in the UK and ensured their reputation as the most kick-ass rock'n'roll band in the Old World. Then their lead singer drank too much booze and died a funny death (provided death can be funny, but with these guys, you never know), so they replaced him, came back in a huge way, broke through in the US and ensured their reputation as the most kick-ass rock'n'roll band on the planet. Then they sort of fizzled out in the Eighties - they still kicked ass-a-plenty, but more and more people became reluctant to acknowledge that - and sort of came back in the Nineties to ensure their reputation as the most kick-ass rock'n'roll band of old farts to still hang around.That's it for the bare facts. Argue with that if you wish. Now, stepping onto the treacherous path of subjectivism, first let us say that AC/DC truly is one of the most unique bands in the world - not everybody is ready to acknowledge that, but for me this fact was perfectly obvious from the very beginning, even in the days when the mere thought of one day holding an AC/DC record (or MP3 collection) in my hands, much less actually reviewing it or - God forbid! - liking it would make me shudder. No one does, did or will do rock'n'roll like AC/DC. For that alone, they certainly deserve a place on the site. The question is: how do they do it? There is really no 'moderate' attitude towards AC/DC in the world - the band is either loved or despised, for obvious reasons. But if it's loved, it is loved seriously. It is loved passionately and dangerously, and the problem is not to let the love and passion override your mind. Unfortunately, love for AC/DC, like the infamous "Pukoid Substance" from Space Quest V, often finishes eating up the paralysed victim's brains and completely transforming his conscience. This is the source of appearance of that horrible breed of intellectual mutants that people usually know under the title 'AC/DC fans', or 'hardcore AC/DC fans', to distinguish them from those gentlemen who have fortunately felt the upcoming disease and ended up with a light dizziness instead. While I don't usually resort to personally offensive remarks, I can't help making a general one: without a doubt, most hardcore AC/DC fans are one of the most mentally retarded, intolerant, and repulsive breeds of fans, particularly on the Web. Any potential objections can be brushed off with just one example: Mark Prindle's AC/DC page. Oh, that page. Doubtlessly, it will go down in history as one of the most famous examples of interactive fiction. Even now I wonder how many years of life it actually cost Mark, a serious admirer of AC/DC, to put up all the innumerable flames, and whether the "obsessive-compulsive disorder" he's currently experiencing has anything to do with it. That said, while hardcore AC/DC fans, these self-proclaimed puffed-up comic-books 'mischievers' and 'miscreants' proclaiming Brian Johnson's lyrics to be glorious examples of rock poetry, are certainly worthy of indignation, I don't quite understand the 'cold-blooded' position either. For a long time, I hated AC/DC myself, and when I finally brought myself to listen to them, I was surprised - these guys do have musical talent, but more so, they have something special going for 'em, not just dazzling guitar pyrotechnics and a sequence of two ballsy singers. What's that they have? And then it struck me. I finally got it - and I got the crucial point of AC/DC, the one that was actually obvious from the beginning, yet never ever mentioned by anybody. Some regard AC/DC as a kick-ass hard rock band; some respect them for their well-constructed riffs; some enjoy them because of the jovial party atmosphere; some despise them because they kept on remaking the same record for twenty-five years; some condemn them for their gross lyrics and uniform melodies. This is all true. But this is not the main thing. There are plenty of kick-ass hard rock bands that repeat their style over and over (well, hard rock in itself is a pretty limited bag o' tricks, isn't it?), and there have been even grosser lyrics penned by certain hardcore bands. The key to understanding AC/DC lies in the following: AC/DC are - in their essence - a joke. A "comic" band. But not just a joke - they are the Ultra-Joke, the band that took rock'n'roll and overdrove it to unprecedented levels of absurd and self-parody. Their don't-hold-out pull-all-the-stops style is all directed at taking the original basics of rock'n'roll - drive, energy, hardness, audacity, ballsiness, "unmorality", good-time-atmosphere, speed, rhythm, etc., etc. - and mounting the temperature for each of these scales to the highest degree possible. Like a train that suddenly doubles speed and misses all the stations. Or a vacuum cleaner that triples its energy and ends up sucking in the curtains and carpets. Or a modem that suddenly begins downloading at a zillion kbs per sec and overloads your hard disk with useless information leading it to a crash. That kind of thing. In the case of AC/DC, and rock'n'roll in general, this all comes out together as an unprecedented package of hilarity. The band presented itself as gross and evil, but they presented themselves as so gross and so evil that it was frankly impossible to take them seriously. Yet the brother Youngs' unarguable musical talents made the final product sound comic rather than miserable - you can't resist those riffs, and the only way you can take them in without making a fool of yourself is to take them as a joke. One of the biggest jokes in rock history. You see know why all those hardcore DC fans are so laughable? They take their idols seriously. A person who takes AC/DC seriously is by far similar to a person who believes that Benny Hill is a true projection of the Englishman's average life, or to those who gather in large groups to move to a distant field in order to impersonate a Tolkien battle and solemnly burn a copy of the greatest parody book of all time, Bored Of The Rings. (And I'm serious about it, heh heh.) Come now, gentlemen, before you flame me, take the time to realize that neither Malcolm nor Angus would never really want to see you dripping saliva and rolling up your eyes in a fit of violent anger! Judging by the interviews with the band members I've read, they, and Brian Johnson, are actually far more funny, intelligent, understanding and sharp-witted than their scenic image suggests them to be, and obviously they expect their fans to follow their real-life example. On the other hand, the fact that nobody acknowledges the 'comic' status of AC/DC also prevents people from giving in and actually enjoying the music, which is definitely enjoyable - to a certain extent. That is, once you come to accept their schtick in general. I do, and I don't even place the band in the "roaches" section because of that. They're talented, funny, and absurd. Like Weird Al Yankovic. Eh?.. Really, people, there's no need to get offended by Bon Scott's 'schoolboy pervert' lyrics or by Brian Johnson's endless references to females swallowing semen. They don't really mean it. They're taking rock'n'roll to the limits - it's like they're showing us the whole absurdity of this rock project: 'See what happens if you follow the basic rock commendments seriously and consecutively? That'll be US, you dufus!' They have a point, too, though I don't feel like expanding on this subject here and now. Maybe later. Lineup: Angus Young - lead guitar; Malcolm Young - rhythm guitar; Bon Scott - vocals; Mark Evans - bass; Phil Rudd - drums. Evans left, 1977, replaced by Cliff Williams. Bon Scott inhaled his vomit in 1980, replaced by Brian Johnson. Rudd left, 1983, replaced by Simon Wright, then, in 1989, by Chris Slade; returned again, 1995. PS. Apart from the regular releases (which will gradually appear on the page), I have also reviewed two Geordie records; Geordie was the original band for future AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, and not an uninteresting one. Read on. PPS. Oh! And if you're a hardcore AC/DC fan, you might want to leave now before you get the obligatory stimulus to flame me. In doing so, you will waste your time because not only won't I post it, you won't even get a response from me. I mean, the world already has one Mark Prindle AC/DC page; it doesn't need a second copy. Intelligent comments will, however, be greatly appreciated.
Listenability: 4/5. They're
brutal and monotonous, yes, but then again, if they weren't, they wouldn't!
Resonance: 5/5. ROCK ON BUDDY!
Originality: 2/5. One point for the cool guitar tones, one for the general approach. Everything else wasn't theirs, but they made it theirs.
Adequacy: 5/5. They virtually embody the goddamn notion.
Diversity: 0/5. Should I REALLY mention the bagpipes?
Overall: 3.2 = C on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975Record rating = 5
No no no. This isn't too high. In fact, this does sound like your average naughty highschool band of dumbasses.Best song: BABY PLEASE DON'T GO
Track listing: 1) Baby Please Don't Go; 2) She's Got Balls; 3) Little Lover; 4) Stick Around; 5) Soul Stripper; 6) You Ain't Got A Hold On Me; 7) Love Song; 8) Show Business.
Well... some people are born with genius in their butthole, some have to eat their cereal to grow themselves one (genius, that is). So, for all there was, AC/DC weren't off to a great start. But before we go on any further, please note that I am reviewing the original, Australian release of High Voltage here; the later American release of same album only took a couple of songs off the debut, while the rest of it was comprised from material off their Australian T.N.T. record. In retrospect, this might have been a wise decision, considering just how much of an improvement their second albums is. Because while it is true that all AC/DC basically sounds the same, in the end it all boils down to the question: how many memorable riffs are there on an AC/DC album and how high is the fun quota on an AC/DC album. Well, in this case - not too many and not too high.It does show, however, that the band had its schtick worked out from the very beginning. The cover of Big Bill Broonzy's 'Baby Please Don't Go' is a classic and should be included on any of the band's hit packages. They didn't invent this frenetic rearrangement - variations had been available on records of pretty much everybody, from Them to the Amboy Dukes to Budgie - but they definitely perfected it, moulding the song into a magnificent groove in a way they really had not managed to beat in the following thirty years. Predictably fast as lightning but also tight and snappy, it already showcases Malcolm's excellent grasp of the 'hyper-rock' essence: there are at least three or four different riffs in the song, and they all work. The main riff is actually a marvel - it certainly takes a lot of gall to be sliding up and down the fretboard at Malcolm's speed. I feel that Mr Bon Scott goes a little over the top with his screaming (it worked better on AC/DC originals), but that's a minor complaint. Some actually quote the song as the one that actually invents guitar tapping (or "hammer-on", whatever it's called) way before Van Halen did it - I'm not yer Mr Technician, but I don't see any particular reason to doubt this or get offended at it. Angus Young is one hell of a guitarist, and this is one of his baddest performances. Too bad he doesn't offer it much competition - the rest of the songs are much slower and not particularly exciting. First, any AC/DC fan, hardcore or not, is bound to get offended by 'Love Song' - yes, it is about the only true "ballad" that the band ever did, and while I wouldn't be hot enough to bestow the generic title of 'worst song ever written' upon its lazy ass, it definitely proves, once and for all, that every AC/DC member is a permanent persona non grata when it comes to ballad territory. Perhaps the most "hilariously bad" moment about it is the 'romantic' introduction, with the Young brothers trying to squeeze something 'beautiful' out of their instruments, with results even more laughable than those earliest attempts at imitating their rockabilly idols you hear on the first disc of the Beatles' Anthologies. And Bon Scott trying to sound sentimental? Please, I'd rather put on some Dave Coverdale. I can't even figure out if the title, 'Love Song', was a deliberate spoofing of cliched love song titles, or if they were dumb enough to think of that title as, well, uh, a suitable title for a love song, 'ay? Second, too many songs on here are just dull bluesy stompers. Granted, not as dull as many other bands' attempts at sounding likewise, due to Bon Scott's nasty vocals and the Young brothers' razor-sharp guitar tones, but what the heck, a guitar tone is not the best thing about a song. Playing generic blues is not really that far from the idea of playing generic rootsy ballads - it's not what AC/DC are, or should be, renowned for. Therefore, I have pretty little use for these songs, be they mid-tempo, like 'Show Business', or excruciatingly slow, like 'Little Lover'. Somebody else might find a better use for them, of course, but had they continued in the same way, they would become a minor and unnecessary Australian rip-off of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the like. Unfortunately, when they play something more 'rocking', the effect is not all that different. 'She's Got Balls' might already feature typical classic AC/DC absurdist filthy lyrics, but the melody is way too primitive. More like the Ramones sped down five times - I mean, if you want to strip a rock song to its basics, you should at least play it fast. And if you wanna play slow, you should at least bother to come up with more intricate riffs. Same goes with 'Stick Around' and 'Soul Stripper', two primitive riff-fests that are way too far from the crushing power of Back In Black, even if Angus does play some nifty solo tweaks in the latter (and Bon Scott emits a fun little wail in the former, perfectly synchronized with the guitar wail). Even worse is the fact that they just refuse to let go, extending every song, like, twice beyond the reasonable length - 'Soul Stripper' clocks in at an unbearable six minutes, with a lengthy 'moody' introduction that has little to do with the song itself and just sort of plods along making you wonder if the guy with the nasty voice actually is going to sing. 'You Ain't Got A Hold On Me', thus, comes out to take its spot as second best song on the album, but it ain't that great either - it's just that the chorus is kinda catchy, and it's also the first opportunity we have to witness Bon Scott in real classy action, switching from his trademark 'subtle sly' vocal menace to overall screaming and back. With just one classic song on the album, High Voltage is a miserable takeoff, but it still garners at least an overall eight from me because essentially the AC/DC as we should like them have already arrived: it just took them a bit more time to figure out which of their sides were actually the strongest ones (kick-ass riff-heavy rockers) and emphasize them and figure out which ones were the weakest (generic blues and - God forbid - balladry) and drop 'em. Think of this as the band's Surfin' Safari - a bunch of little kids who got the chance to have the recording studio to themselves a bit too early, way before completing the 'maturation' process. Technically, I guess the inexperience and unstability of the record also could have something to do with the fact that neither regular bass player Mark Evans nor regular drummer Phil Rudd didn't play on it. Then again, maybe not. It's the songwriting that really lets me down.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976Record rating = 8
Apparently, adding one more chord and an ounce of balls does the trick.Best song: IT'S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP
Track listing: 1) It's A Long Way To The Top; 2) Rock'n'Roll Singer; 3) The Jack; 4) Live Wire; 5) TNT; 6) Rocker; 7) Can I Sit Next To You Girl; 8) High Voltage; 9) School Days.
The only AC/DC album to which you can apply a tag like "now this is a grandiose improvement". Now actually AC/DC did develop for many years, and you can utter the tasty phrase "this is where the classic AC/DC sound finally falls in place" to pretty much every record of theirs from High Voltage to Back In Black (with the notable exception of Dirty Deeds), but in between their first and second album passes that thin, but important line which pushes them from "sorta okay" to "notably remarkable". Upon first listen, it's just the same thing all over again. Upon second listen, it becomes obvious that there's a good deal more song- and riff-writing involved; that the tracks, overall, are more diverse and cover more types of emotional ground; and that the sound, while still a bit wimpy as compared to the powerful crunch of 1977, already has that "ridiculously monstruous" sheen to it.In terms of songs, their second Australian release is particularly notorious for two things. One: the opening number, 'It's A Long Way To The Top', is about the only time that they ever experienced with instrumentation outside of the usual guitars/bass/drums combo - it utilises bagpipes. Sure, Bon Scott plays about two or three chords on them, but amazingly, to good effect - in this setting, they make a perfect counterpoint to the guitars. It's interesting to note how the riff on here initiates their long practice of re-writing their own songs with awesome results: it's practically identical to the main melody of 'Let There Be Rock', only slower and with a bit more syncopation. Same and at the same time different. The magic of AC/DC. Two is that the record features 'The Jack', the song hatred for which earned Mark Prindle his first lengthy batch of flames way back when (and he's never been the same ever since!). Personally, I think 'The Jack' is rather fun; granted, musically it's an absolute zero - your generic slow blues shuffle - but Bon Scott puts on a terrific and humour-filled "show" that I don't find stupid or offensive (at least, I don't find it unintentionally stupid or offensive). Plus, it's probably got the cleverest word-games the man had ever bothered to come up with, although the initial version was even dirtier (the 'censored' lyrics have resurfaced later for the casual fan on the live album from 1992). And if, perchance, you happen to be new to AC/DC and don't know what this stuff is all about, I'll give you a clue: 'The Jack' draws a parallel between a playing card and a venereal disease. Eh? These are the two "standouts", but the entire album cooks, just because, somehow, it manages to flow by without resorting to clear-cut formula, and there's enough invention to keep you occupied. Well, frankly, the cover of Chuck Berry's 'School Days' can go to hell for as long as I live; who needs AC/DC covering Chuck Berry when they don't even speed him up like they did with Big Bill Broonzy? - on the other hand, it's pretty interesting how they set the tune to a completely different riff, though, with Bon singing against the melody. A a couple other numbers (like their rearrangement of one of the earliest songs they've written, 'Can I Sit Next To You Girl') are undistinctive, either, but for the most part either the Youngs or Bon Scott pull the songs out of filler state. 'Rock'n'Roll Singer', for instance, is one of the most straightforward self-mockeries I've ever heard: after hearing this song, it's hardly possible to take the band seriously, isn't it? 'Gonna be a rock'n'roll star, yes I are... I hear it pays well'. Heh heh. Just how many people took this stuff with a straight face on, I wonder? On the other hand, it is total dumbness and total honesty all rolled together in one big ball o' wax. The greatest thing about AC/DC is that they're a bunch of jackasses who have the balls to confess to the world they're jackasses, instead of singing about the importance of birth control or the adventures of Gollum. (Birth control is important, though. As is Gollum). The title track would later be redone better as 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' (yes, indeed - the band even chants 'T-N-T' in the same way as they would chant 'Dir-ty-deeds', not to mention the similarity of the riffs), but it kicks ass either way: the 'oi oi oi oi oi' in the introduction are as ridiculous as it ever gets, and the chorus is cheese heaven - if, after hearing Bon Scott whining 'I'm a powerload, watch me exploooooode!' in his wimpy squeal for the first time, you're not ready to ROTFLYAO, you obviously have way too heavy a burden to bear on your shoulders. Likewise, 'Live Wire' introduces the famous "tension-building" so well developed by the band in the future, with their precise quasi-mathematic calculation of how to construct their gradual sonic assault. But why is the riff so similar to 'T.N.T.'? No fair. AC/DC riffs should be different. Everything can be the same, but the riffs should be different. That's the key, man. The riffs. And 'The Rocker' is fast and bulbous... er, sorry, wrong storry. Fast and hilarious - so fast, in fact, that it only further affirms my theory of driving rock'n'roll to absurd. This is absurd - rock'n'roll can't be played at such a fast speed, when even such an experienced rhythm player as Malcolm can't keep up the rhythm. Or maybe he pretends that he can't keep up the rhythm? Surely he could keep it up, but he preferred to play the fool. That's alright by me, since I expect him to be playing the fool. I wonder if Angus wore his school uniform at the recording session? Finally, 'High Voltage' sums it up in the band's definitive early day anthem - the album's most 'pretentious' song, but in a feel-good, kick-ass way. It sure took a bit for the album to grow on me, but today I feel totally free to call it the zenith of the band's early, "pre-metal-crunch" period, when they weren't yet saddled with the problem of upholding the AC/DC image and pretty much did whatever they wanted. In a way, it's AC/DC's Hard Day's Night; it would be a bit stagnating and downhill from here on, and then they would make a subtle direction shift that would never return them to the virgin glory of the early years. That's no big problem, of course. This sound wasn't so very great to lament the eventual toughening up. The worst thing is - they would never use these bagpipes again.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976Record rating = 6
Roll back, start over again. Even minimalism takes its toll.Best song: DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP
Track listing: 1) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap; 2) Love At First Feel; 3) Big Balls; 4) Rocker; 5) Problem Child; 6) There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'; 7) Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionnaire); 8) Ride On; 9) Squealer.
Identic, but somewhat inferior, twin to T.N.T. - and that really says it all, considering that all AC/DC records sound alike in the long run. And in the long run, out of these early albums, this one has arguably aged the least well. It just seems a bit rushed, comprised of leftovers and hastily rewritten songs that are so poor when it comes to songwriting ideas that you really have to consider Angus' guitar picking the equivalent of a draught of ambrosia or something to enjoy the record. I'd actually argue that the best thing about it is the album cover - almost surrealist for the usual AC/DC level, and pretty much their last interesting album cover, too, before they started milking the formula of their image on each and every subsequent release.The subpar character of this one is indirectly supported by the fact that it contains only one 'classic' number that's still being played live and is subject to heavy radio rotation: the immortal title track, of course. But even so, remember that the title track is based on the same old three-note 'T.N.T.' riff, plus it borrows the intonations of the chorus and the intentionally ugly 'group harmonies' of the latter. In some ways, it is an improvement, though: the guitars sound meaner and leaner, and if not for the laughable lyrics ('you wanna graduate but not in his bed' - ooh, social critique! gimme more!), the track could almost be considered as something really dangerous, unlike 'T.N.T.', whose 'oi oi oi oi' grunts alone were able to undermine all the threat and menace. The funny story is that the band was sued by some Chicago company because people would ring them up at 36-24-36 all the time (the number Bon Scott names in the song). Makes me think twice before visiting Chicago, I'd say. The place of 'The Jack', then, is taken by the similar lazy-paced 'Big Balls' - even more stupid than its predecessor, but the way Bon Scott structures his gross wordgames ('it's my belief that my big balls should be held every night') really gotta be admired anyway. I honestly admit I couldn't compete with them on this level, and from a purely linguistic stance, this stuff definitely deserves respect. Stupid and gross for sure, but even when the smart wordgames are over and they get over to the 'I've got big balls, he's got big balls' (these lyrics, when properly translated, sure could lively up the atmosphere in a conjugation-learning language class), the song easily falls into the 'so stupid it's great' category. Darnit. Still prefer 'The Jack' to it, though. However, I don't have that much good news about everything else. First of all, this time I am here reviewing the later-issued American version of the album, which leaves off a terrific rocker called 'Jailbreak' and for some reason puts 'Rocker' in its place, the one we already had on the Australian T.N.T. but which was left off the American High Voltage. (If you're that confused, I welcome you to investigate the Rolling Stones discography, and the AC/DC one will look like the periodical table of Mendeleyev in comparison). So the Australian release of DDDDC is presumably better - perhaps getting it even one point higher. Not that it's easily available, of course. But what's the deal with these other songs, then? 'There's Gonna Be Some Rockin' Tonight' is boring and generic, returning us into formulaic blues-rock territory, with no tremedously interesting solos and not a whiff of invention; even AC/DC fans don't speak about this too much. 'Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionnaire)' has Bon Scott expand on the lyrical thematics he'd already explored half a dozen times before (the fate of rock performers, naturally), and at nearly seven minutes, it's excruciating. The twin guitar interplay between Angus and Malcolm is fascinating at first - but it would make a far better three-minute song than a seven-minute pseudo-anthem. Not even the decision to speed up the song after the false ending can save it when it's essentially the same three-chord riff banged over and over and over. Who do they think they are, the Beatles in their 'Hey Jude' period? As for the slow, "moody" 'Ride On', it is sometimes considered as one of the sincerest and most emotional blues numbers the band ever did, but it's hard for me to take Scott's near-sentimental wailings like 'That's why I'm so lonely, but I know what I'll do, I'm gonna ride on... one of these days I'm gonna change my evil ways, till then I'll just keep dragging on' really seriously. And Angus Young is no Clapton when it comes to a slow emotion-filled blues solo, now that one you can believe. It's just one more proof to the fact that AC/DC are a band who not only cannot expand creatively, they're a band who should be banned from expanding - and luckily for us and them and the Martians, they banned themselves from it soon enough without anybody having to take action. Which leaves us with two or three more conventional AC/DC rockers - 'Problem Child', which again recycles the same two-chord riff pattern of 'DDDDC' and 'T.N.T.', and.. hmm, well, there's this very KISS-like offensive sexist rocker ('Squealer') that sure gotta rank as one of their unluckiest attempts at exploiting their macho image. (In fact, you can hold this nice little vote about who's got the dumbest scream going on: AC/DC with 'SQUEALER!' or KISS with 'STRUTTER!') And that's it, kinda like MAN THIS SUCKS. One excellent song, one good song that we've heard before, one funny song, two decent, but forgettable songs, one failed experiment, one song overkilled by overkill, two really bad ones ('Squealer', 'There's Gonna Be...'). You know? They just couldn't be all that consistent in the early days. Perhaps they were just too busy relocating their asses out of Australia onto the big scene, in which case you gotta forgive 'em - man, if I were to relocate my ass to another country, I would even have to abandon this old site here! (Which I already did before, so there's ample proof). Anyway, if you're that interested in the AC/DC early period, just get the T.N.T. stuff (Australian, of course - gotta go for the real thing) and do your little mathematical calculations because you can easily make a direct projection of that record onto this one. It'll save money and improve your math level, too. But just one important thing before I go: does Bon Scott really sound drunk on 'Big Balls'! Although, to be fair, Brian Johnson was a worthy competitor for the man on 'You Shook Me All Night Long'. What do you sound like when you're drunk, kind sir? Remember this important piece of advice: if you're gonna make a big singalongable statement about people's testicles, you'd better get drunk... Otherwise, people will be thinking you were really singing about testicles.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1977Record rating = 9
Indeed. The balls are not only big this time, but they're actually OUT!Best song: WHOLE LOTTA ROSIE
Track listing: 1) Go Down; 2) Dog Eat Dog; 3) Let There Be Rock; 4) Bad Boy Boogie; 5) Problem Child; 6) Overdose; 7) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 8) Whole Lotta Rosie.
Now this is where the classic AC/DC sound finally falls in place! This is where AC/DC start becoming THE AC/DC as people know and like 'em (people as opposed to 'stereotypical hardcore AC/DC fans' who are supposed to like everything about the band, including the stuff Angus and Malcolm Young were playing in junior school). Actually, there's about as much transition from Dirty Deeds to Let There Be Rock as there was from High Voltage to T.N.T. The band is still seriously rooted in the blues (then again, they would be rooted in the blues to the end of their careers, I guess), but this is where the Young brothers actually discover the loud, filthy, crunchy, poisonous-sounding guitar tones that eventually kicked them into absolute superstardom. Not all the tunes on here are great, but practically every single one of them sounds great, and most are serious improvements in the 'absurdist kick-ass' department: with one mighty turn of the wrench, the band tightens up all the screws and bolts the doors to 'Kick Ass Land' tight so that no one can even dream of following. In some respects, Let There Be Rock actually kicks far more ass than Back In Black: where could you find the boys rocking so fast on BIB, for instance? Or as recklessly?If there is a minor problem, it's that just about every song on the album is overshadowed by the two well-known classics: 'Let There Be Rock' and 'Whole Lotta Rosie'. Yes, it's the speed that counts, of course (never again would AC/DC be playing as fast as on the title track!), but they also present two virtually perfect examples of the Malcolm/Angus interplay, with the first one bashing out the simplistic, yet incredibly catchy riffs as hell, and the latter blazing out finger-flashing solos, self-indulgent and yet so brilliantly capturing that grotesque 'rock'n'roll overdrive' that no other band but AC/DC could muster. 'Let There Be Rock' is arguably the band's lyrical peak as well, with Bon's hilarious take on rock'n'roll history being nearly perfect in the eyes of a simple rock'n'roll fan. The sarcasm never goes away, of course ('the guitar man got famous, the businessman got rich'), and then there are all these fabulous maxims like 'the white man had the schmaltz, the black man had the blues' which I'd personally recommend as epigraphs for any respectable textbook on rock'n'roll. Still, mostly it's the music that counts - or even lack thereof, because even when the destructive "KA-CHUNKA! KA-CHUNKA! KA-CHUNKA KA-CHUNKA KA-CHUNKA!" evacuates your brain, there's still the rhythm section to account for, and it's the contrast between the gritty balls-out rock of Malcolm/Angus and the stripped-down Genesis-style "narration" of Bon that totally makes the song. That said, I join with the fans in proclaiming 'Whole Lotta Rosie' as my favourite, with somewhat more typically 'stupid' Bon Scott lyrics dedicated to his encounter with a fat old whore (if my memory serves me right), a riff that any heavy metal band could kill for even if it's entirely generic and Chuck Berry-esque, and Angus playing as fast as possible, just driving those chords forward and forward until you can't take any more. More stop-and-start structure here, too, simple as a brick wall at first sight, but watch out, really, once it comes to the ecstatic solos. You can almost see Angus rolling on the floor of the studio, kicking his feet in the air as he does on stage. It's infectious to the uptenth degree. It leaves you breathless and, if the volume level is sufficient, your neighbours windowless. Without these songs the album would be nowhere near as magnificent, but I guess it'd still manage to extricate an 11 out of me. The original Australian release is supposed to contain a third classic, the infamous 'Crabsody In Blue', but, unfortunately, like most of the non-collector general public, I happen to have the American release of the album, which innocently replaces it with 'Problem Child' - a song I already have on the previous album! And it doesn't sound any better on here, believe me (even if it does kick ass, but why shouldn't it?); worse, it disrupts the flow a bit, because it's painfully clear just how much the production/playing values have become different in between 1976 and 1977. That's a stupid publishing misfire; fortunately, the only one. All the other songs feature interesting and energizing riffs, even if some of them are mercilessly copped - some from earlier AC/DC songs, some from outside sources. For instance, the minimalistic riff of 'Dog Eat Dog' reminds me of the classic 'Jailbreak' riff... no, not the AC/DC 'Jailbreak', the Thin Lizzy one. Could they? Might they? Would they? WHY NOT?? It's no 'Jailbreak' in terms of epicness (and it doesn't have the cool wah-wah flourishes of that song), but it's a whole lotta Rosie anyway. The grand prize of 'Third Best Riff' on here goes to 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be'. If you're a novice, it's a song that was later partially re-written as 'Honey What Do You Do For Money'. Partially - the main problem with AC/DC is that you can never catch them by the tail and say 'hey, you ripped that number off!' And they'll first say 'so what?' and then they can say 'listen closely and you'll hear it's different'. And you will, but only if you listen very closely. Through a stethoscope. But 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be' is definitely acceptable in any case. Plus, the title got them in their first serious trouble with organized religion (since those who practice it very rarely care to look behind the actual title to discover it's hardly anything more than a juvenile provocation). 'Bad Boy Boogie' and 'Go Down' are also heavily, oh so heavily recommendable; only 'Overdose', true to its title, tries my patience for about two minutes too long. But don't you go forgetting about the best thing on this album - check out the intros to these songs; pretty much every number on here begins with something like a short click - like somebody turning on the power or picking up the guitar and scraping it a bit against one's fingernails. Not a single one of them has a "pretty clean" introduction; no Mutt Lange to tidy up the proceedings. This can get annoying once you actually start noticing it, but it's also highly symbolic: it's AC/DC at the height of their "rawness" and, again, not quite beginning to milk their own image yet. The boys are having more fun on this record than on anything else. For pure, reckless, unabashed headbanging, sloppy, unscrupulous, and uncalculated, this is the best place to stop on the AC/DC line, not the cleaned-up Highway To Hell or Back In Black, great as they are. In other words - one of my favs.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1978Record rating = 8
Classic sound, but not enough first-rate self-sustainable riffs for my taste.Best song: RIFF RAFF
Track listing: 1) Rock'n'Roll Damnation; 2) Down Payment Blues; 3) Gimme A Bullet; 4) Riff Raff; 5) Sin City; 6) What's Next To The Moon; 7) Gone Shootin'; 8) Up To My Neck In You; 9) Kicked In The Teeth.
I've noted a weird tendency - for quite a few people whose life doesn't entirely depend on AC/DC, Powerage seems to embody the culmination of the classic AC/DC spirit. Without offensively prying their souls with my trusty chisel too much, I'm still ready to go out on a limb and suggest the underlying reason is that there's nothing particularly "outstanding" on this album - "outstanding", in the actual AC/DC lingo, meaning "really dumb, really gross, and with a really flashy riff at that so people will look at you and ask you to turn down that idiotic racket".But to my ears, this gets interpreted as not having any true sonic/melodic/whatever advances here; in fact, Powerage is rather a step back in that the album contains no true rip-roaring speedy classic like 'Whole Lotta Rosie', and the tempo is so disgustingly MID throughout that it really pains me to see so many of these songs extended way beyond what would be a decent running time. Besides that, the Young brothers don't step away from the usual 'rewrite this as that' routine, and those who appreciate at least a little originality will be dismayed to hear that 'Kicked In The Teeth' just rewrites 'Let There Be Rock', and the other melodies aren't that creative either. (And would be re-written later on - isn't it hilarious how Bon Scott sings 'they're putting you down' off 'Rock'n'Roll Damnation' just in the same way that Brian Johnson would be singing 'they're dragging you down' on 'Hell's Bells'?). Likewise, the overall sound is way more slick than on Let There Be Rock; it wouldn't get fully combed until Mutt Lange's arrival of next year, of course, but already they're stepping away from scruffy garage rock values, with the riffs getting less sharp and ever so slightly "gluing" the notes together, with barrages of power chords often replacing the formerly colourful melodies. If I'm not being perfectly clear on this, I sure wish more songs on here would be built according to the values of 'Gone Shootin' than according to the values of 'Gimme A Bullet' (not that the former is necessarily a better song, but every time Angus plays a guitar note that doesn't ring, it just feels so much more AC/DC-like! On here, at least). Nevertheless, all the tunes are reasonably solid, and we could even say that Malcolm has bothered to write some new riffs for the record. Meanwhile, Angus keeps on practicing and ever so slightly improves his soloing skills - check out the wild passages on 'Kicked In The Teeth', for one - and Bon Scott's singing, for one, has never been bettered; in fact, Powerage is as close as AC/DC ever comes to a 'serious sound', with tunes such as 'Down Payment Blues' and 'Sin City' possessing some real grit as opposed to the boys' usual clownade. Yeah, 'Sin City' was later rewritten as 'Honey What Do You Do For Money' (shit, so was 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be'. Sometimes I just happen to think that AC/DC's entire pre-1980 catalog can be considered as one huge package of outtakes from the Back In Black sessions), but it's a far better number when it comes down to discussing the songs' true potential. Even the lyrics have somehow improved - less stupid dirty jokes, more social critique and 'unrighteous life portraying' which is sometimes really biting. Apart from 'Sin City', my favourite on here is 'Riff Raff', an excellent title that really fits the music because the song has a dirty shuffling intro where it really seems that the boys are going 'riff-raff riff-raff riff-raff riff-raff', and that dirty shuffle - as expected - reappears at other selected moments of the album as well. It's also a bit faster than almost everything else which also gets my props. It also has the only original riff on this record which actually sticks in my head, a cool little Chuck Berry-esque line ending in a rhythmic power chord melange. Nice soloing from Angus as well, but that's sort of understood. In fact, I guess he was so proud of the hell he'd raised on 'Whole Lotta Rosie', that he lets himself run wild all over the place on this album - in terms of "flash quantity", it is the Angus Young record to own, because later on he once again became much more restrained in the studio (which, again, isn't necessarily a bad thing - his brilliantly constructed solos on Back In Black, which I can almost replay in my head note by note, are a great alternative to the Wildman Style). Everything else seems to fall together after a while (aren't 'Rock'n'Roll Damnation' and 'Up To My Neck In You' the exact same song? Ah well), until 'Kicked In The Teeth' which does stand out a little due to its faster tempo and crazier solos, but like I already mentioned, it's just a sequel to 'Let There Be Rock'. Whatever. It's really tough to be reviewing this AC/DC stuff when you get around to the third or fourth album. You might as well just have a big riff count and leave it at that. One thing that really needs to be repeated, though, is that when I said 'no true advances here', I wasn't really talking about the production and arrangement department. I mean, the tunes might all be re-writes of the early stuff, of course, but you can easily notice that THIS album opens their Back In Black era. I don't think it had that much to do with a new bass player (Cliff Williams replaced Mark Evans at the time), although some of the bass lines do sound more self-assured and cookin' than before ('Gone Shootin', for instance, owes everything to the bass line and nothing else), but whatever it had to do with, it sure doesn't sound all that different from Back In Black, apart from a bit lousier production - they didn't have Robert "Mutt" Lange yet, you know. But the cold, well-calculated guitar interplay, the wicked guitar riffs played in the intro to the songs never to reappear again, the constant mid-tempo, the newly-found cleanliness of the sound (as opposed to the 'short clicks' that opened every song on Let There Be Rock, for instance) - all of these things prepare the listener for Back In Black. Which really makes me think that BIB's 'standing apart' from the other AC/DC albums really owes everything to the producer, not to these guys - they had it all figured out way before, just couldn't bring themselves together to deliver.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1978Record rating = 8
Monsters in the studio, monsters onstage. No tremendous difference.Best song: LET THERE BE ROCK
Track listing: 1) Riff Raff; 2) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 3) Bad Boy Boogie; 4) The Jack; 5) Problem Child; 6) Whole Lotta Rosie; 7) Rock'n'Roll Damnation; 8) High Voltage; 9) Let There Be Rock; 10) Rocker.
A pretty solid live record, and a great deal for the fans since it's the only one to have been released while Bon Scott was still alive (although some of the Scott-era live material later resurfaced on the Bonfire boxset). I do have certain problems with it, though - namely, AC/DC live don't sound much different from AC/DC in the studio, at least, from the point of view of a non-diehard fan. What would be the difference, bar the ecstatic crowd noises? Same guitars/bass/drum, same wailing paranoid singer. Heck, even the production looks similar: I have heard many people complaining that the sound is 'tinny' and the production flat-out sucks, but maybe I'm suffering from an acute ear damage or something, because I don't hear any significant differences as far as sound is concerned. Even the guitars, as usual, are placed in a different speaker each. What I could believe are the rumours that the recording underwent serious tampering in the studio - but I don't have any documental proof on that one, so I'll pass. Who knows what you're into once you start throwing flimsy accusations in the direction of rock's wildest band.So, basically, there's not that much absolute reason to listen to this stuff unless you gotta have it as a 'hit collection' substitute for the pre-Highway To Hell period. In which case there are some glaring omissions, of course. Where's 'T.N.T'? Where's 'Sin City'? Where's 'Jailbreak'? Where's 'Baby Please Don't Go'? Okay, I admit that they weren't probably performing the latter by 1978, but I still want a live version! This business sucks! Still, you don't hear me complaining that much, because for all the omissions, the set list is actually quite good (in fact, about as good as the extended one-LP format allows it to be). It could have been bigger, but out of these ten tracks, the only one I could easily do without is 'Rock'n'Roll Damnation', and even that one isn't one of their forgettablest tunes (let us rewrite the English grammar together!). Thus, it goes without saying that in a moment of desperate need of adrenaline I'd rather put on this one than any of the actual studio recordings preceding it, even if objectively this ain't no grand prize, dude. I do admit that it can be a pretty jaw-droppin' experience to hear the brothers Young reproduce all of their sparkling guitar acrobatics on stage on just the same level of inspiration and professionalism as in the studio, but heck, I knew it from the start, and it came across as no surprise. Bon Scott, though, does seem to be a little bit different on stage - more aggressive and rambling, as all 'em aggressive and rambling frontmen tend to be. Actually, his tenure was just about the most intriguing thing on here: I have always known that he had a particularly strong pair of vocal chords, but I never knew he could actually master such a tremendous roar as he did while bellowing 'hiiiiiiiigh... hiiiiiiigh...' in the audience singalong part of 'High Voltage'. Almost beat out Noddy Holder, and that guy always sounded as if he had several rows of cogs in his throat! Wow. See now? AC/DC are pretty restricted in the studio! Worse than that - they're... (sssh, don't tell anybody)... they're real wusses in the studio! Fuckin' pansies! Only becoming real men in the limelight... Anyway, only two tracks are somewhat changed from the studio arrangements - these are 'Bad Boy Boogie' and 'Let There Be Rock', both extended way beyond standard running length to incorporate some of Angus' overblown pretentions for wanky guitar soloing (and "stripping" in the case of the former). Nah, screw that - I really like the way Angus does wanky guitar soloing. He does it fully according to the band's usual stylistics, that is, fast, distorted, venomous, aggressive, uncompromised, whatever. And actually, pretty simple - quite often he just goes around playing one or two-note solos, but they're so fast and dynamic that I would have a hard time putting them down. The bombastic coda to 'Let There Be Rock' is a bit tiresome, though, and gives a first hint at one of late period AC/DC's most obvious disadvantages - their wish to "anthemicize" their music, which later culminated in the boring, overblown excesses of For Those About To Rock. But then again, this is a fuckin' live album, so give the fans whatever they want, I guess. The sole real disappointment, then, is 'Whole Lotta Rosie', as the rascals drastically shortened it, leaving out the whole wild rave-up at the end - and that was the moment I'd been living for when it came to the studio version, you assholes. Plus, Angus' playing just doesn't seem to me all that inspired on this particular track (again, in comparison to the studio version, of course) - perhaps his fingers just got tired by the time it came around to doing the number. Not the definitive live version; check out the Bonfire stuff instead to find a perfect one. On a particular note, it's curious to note that, even if this was all recorded on the tour to promote Powerage, there are only two numbers from that record - with five out of ten numbers, on the contrary, being from Let There Be Rock (the double-origin 'Problem Child' included). If this doesn't, albeit in a very indirect way, confirm my idea that LTBR was all about the flash and the rawness and the ecstasy and the Rock Nirvana, whereas Powerage was a subtler, but less ass-kicking, not nearly as "stage-ready", album, then I don't know what else can confirm it better. 'Riff Raff' does kick the aforementioned ass, being the opening number, but it is quite soon driven out of my memory with 'Bad Boy Boogie'. Oh, and you get to enjoy a significantly different set of lyrics for 'The Jack' here - apparently, the record company couldn't get their censorship-smelling hands on these live tapes as well. Tee hee. Basically, I'd say Bonfire is the obvious move for the dedicated Bon Scott fan; however, if you're not rich enough to get Bonfire (and I sure wasn't - I have it in MP3, hey, aren't I the cheap dishonest lucky pirate?), this live album will sure do. Good, satisfying stuff. The title sure is stupid for a live album, though. Now if it were a KISS album, I'd understand, what with Gene Simmons spitting blood and all, but this one leaves me dumb. And yeah, I know it's actually a song title. I know that. Isn't it stupid that the song in question was released after this album became public knowledge, though?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1979Record rating = 9
Slick, refined, and Bonscottian to the extreme - the ideal AC/DC record for the "rebellious bourgeois" state of mind!Best song: IF YOU WANT BLOOD (YOU'VE GOT IT)
Track listing: 1) Highway To Hell; 2) Girls Got Rhythm; 3) Walk All Over You; 4) Touch Too Much; 5) Beating Around The Bush; 6) Shot Down In Flames; 7) Get It Hot; 8) If You Want Blood (You've Got It); 9) Love Hungry Man; 10) Night Prowler.
With this album and its immediate successor, AC/DC reach the absolute peak of their game. Yeah, yeah, I know - I wanted to sound original and try to find this peak in some earlier record, whatever, Let There Be Rock, Powerage, Dirty Deeds even, but no way. There's no denying that it wasn't until 1979 that the band really stepped up to their zenith, to a point where their pretentious, 'comic-evil' balloon became inflated to the max and their legacy impossible to ignore.And no, I don't think that their new producer, Robert "Mutt" Lange, had a lot to do with the change. To tell the truth, I don't even find a lot of differences in the way that Highway and Powerage are produced. So Lange 'fattens' the sound a bit, and some of the formerly 'annoying' guitar distortion has been smoothed around the edges, which isn't necessarily good because it moves them closer to the slick, pizzazz-lacking sound of MOR bands of the era, but really, these changes are so tiny in comparison to what has been retained that most people won't probably even begin to notice the changes. Yes, and maybe he's responsible for convincing the boys to do a wee bit more 'harmonizing' on this album (which is why some actually view this as AC/DC's 'power pop' album), but for the most part, it's still the same homebrewed, raw, sleazy, exciting kind of boogie. Besides, the true metamoprhosis in production wouldn't arrive until Back In Black. What is different is the band's musical direction. How many straightforward blues standards will you be finding on here? Not a single one. 'Night Prowler', maybe. This is the furthest yet that the band managed to step away from their blues-rock legacy, and since, after all, we don't respect the band for being blues-rockers, we respect them for playing rock'n'roll, I welcome this change. The average speed has increased, too: ditching the frustrating mid-tempo of Powerage, they churn out a few speedy rockers, and even those that are mid-tempo sound revitalized and renergized. In addition, the riffs mostly rule - true, most of them can, as usual, be traced to earlier roots, but I wouldn't wanna know about that; all I know is they sound truly impressive to me, which is not something I could say about more than a third of the songs on just about every preceding album bar Let There Be Rock. And as if that wasn't enough, HTH is Bon Scott's peak hour as a vocalist: no theatricality, just a blood-curdling rock'n'roll scream that on frantic songs like 'If You Want Blood' comes as close to true sincerity as it ever could. In fact, I'm gonna make a wild guess here that there's no way we could know the classic Brian Johnson scream for what it is had it not been for Bon's decision to crank 'em up on this album, meaning that Johnson obviously modelled his delivery after Scott's hystrionics on Highway To Hell rather than the more restrained posturing on previous albums. Then again, none of that screaming helped him widen his gullet enough... Song by song analysis? Gee, I'm in a song by song analysis mood. Here we go. 'Highway To Hell' is not one of my favourite songs on here (at least, I do not think it deserves the classic radio overplay it gets in the place of, uhh, 'If You Want Blood', for instance; maybe it has something to do with the boys plundering the 'Louie Louie' riff for the melody - does it get any more basic than that?), but it's still solid, mainly memorable for its, well, chorus. I'm not gonna go sentimental and say that the tell-tale lyrics are Bon's self-epitaph, because, to be frank, every Bon-era AC/DC album has at least one "self-epitaph" of the kind, but still, wouldn't surprise me none if the Lord actually'd heard Mr Scott roaring out 'I'm on a highway to hell' and agreeing to grant his wish. 'Girls Got Rhythm' got rhythm indeed - one of AC/DC's danceablest tunes yet, which adds a lot to its being catchy as well. One more step, boys, and that song is as late Seventies disco as it gets - fortunately, that step is never made. The only bad thing I can say about 'Walk All Over You' is that I hate AC/DC's lengthy pompous power chord introductions. Why can't all their songs get straight to the point, like 'Let There Be Rock' or Aerosmith's 'Toys In The Attic'? Especially since all the power chords sound alike, and so all the power chord introductions sound alike. Otherwise, cool fast rocker with hilarious Britpop-style vocal harmonies in the chorus. 'Touch Too Much' begins with one of the most impressive Angus/Malcolm interplay melodies ever, but that vocal melody... hmm. Almost sounds like some sort of, er, "corporate rocker". Foreigner-like. Lou Gramm would love to sing that one, I'm sure. Regardless, the very idea of AC/DC doing a 'conventional rocker' in their hyper-evil style is hilarious, and I love the song. But I love 'Beating Around The Bush' even more - in parts, it seems like a return to the young innocent days of lightning-speed riffage of 'Baby Please Don't Go', but it also demonstrates obvious signs of their having progressed over the years. 'Shot Down In Flames' is the one song I'm not impressed with - slow, stupid, slightly meandering, obvious Powerage outtake, and besides, that same riff was used to much cooler effect by ZZ Top in their immortal 'I Got The Six' four years later. Gimme 'What Do You Do For Money Honey' over this stuff any time of day. 'Get It Hot' is essentially 'Shot Down In Flames' minus the "evil rapist atmosphere" plus the "good time party atmosphere". These two songs drag the album's rating down a bit. But only a bit. And it's all redeemed with 'If You Want Blood', one of the few tunes where the band really goes beyond their laughable image. Not that AC/DC often succeed with social imagery, but this one really works, really, really works, certainly works far better than 'Give The People What They Want' by Mr Washed Up Davies. (Shh. Don't tell anybody, but the riff is actually another variation on that same 'Shot Down In Flames/What Do You Do For Money...' shenanigan!!). Conviction? You got it. Power? There you are. Poison? A-plenty. Blood? You've got it. Just for fun, play this song back to back with the similarly topicalized 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' and you'll see just how far they managed to progress in three years without actually progressing. 'Love Hungry Man' is almost disco (watch out for Cliff Williams' bassline), but not enough disco to be a rousing power-chord-heaven a la Free's 'All Right Now'; and finally, 'Night Prowler' ends the record on a slow, bluesy, 'epic' note - and if HTH is Bon's moment of geek glory in the AC/DC catalog, then 'Night Prowler' is his most powerful moment of geek glory on the album. One thing they still hadn't done well was the Evil Stalker Song, their 'Midnight Rambler', and it's a good thing they only did it in 1979, because you just can't do that song right with a mediocre vocalist... Bon really pulls all the stops here. I don't even mention Angus' brilliant solo most of the time. 'I'M YOUR NIIIIIIIIIGHT PROOOOWLER!' Sheez, it's hard to do those song-by-song analyses. Then again, I have an excuse - AC/DC's lexicon is painfully limited itself, so I have a rightful excuse to recycle the same epithets in my reviews. What do you want? You reap what you sow. In any case, the one Bon Scott album with AC/DC to buy is this one (although you really need two, and you know the second one). Diverse (as far as the band's diversity goes), fun and well-produced, it's certainly the best "rock'n'roll" album of 1979, and it really was something of an anomaly: no punkish notes, no Van Halen-style wankery, no influences whatsoever, just plain rock'n'roll, and yet... it's a solid album? Boy, you can despise AC/DC for all their worth (I know I sometimes can't resist the temptation either), but you gotta give it to them - they were unique in their own perverse way.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1980Record rating = 10
Rock'n'roll ain't noise pollution. Rock'n'roll is Absurd Perfection!Best song: HELLS BELLS
Track listing: 1) Hells Bells; 2) Shoot To Thrill; 3) What Do You Do For Money Honey; 4) Given The Dog A Bone; 5) Let Me Put My Love Into You; 6) Back In Black; 7) You Shook Me All Night Long; 8) Have A Drink On Me; 9) Shake A Leg; 10) Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.
Where do people start with an album like Back In Black? In the usual place. Meaning the review only makes sense in case you've recently arrived from Alpha Centauri and haven't yet had the chance to hear of this album. Well, let me tell you this: many people who don't usually call themselves "AC/DC fans" so as not to get confused with The Scum of the Earth often say that they prefer earlier, Bon Scott-led AC/DC, with either one of the two preceding records as the band's absolute peak. They expand on that in a reasonable, intelligent kind of way, pointing out that Back In Black was slickly overproduced by "Mutt" Lange, that the songs essentially did nothing but represent yet another set of re-writes, that the lyrics concentrate on blatant caveman sexism in a way that's unbearable, and that new lead singer Brian Johnson's screechy, hysterical vocals are so gross and annoying it's hard to listen to more than two songs in a row.They're all right, every single one of those smart reasonable motherfuckers whose opinions I respect so much. Back In Black is all of that, and is pretty easy to put down if you feel the need to. But let me tell you this: AC/DC didn't write music for smart reasonable motherfuckers, or at least, they didn't write music that was supposed to be enjoyed in a smart and reasonable mood. And once you dig into that, Back In Black suddenly stands out for all it is: arguably rock'n'roll taken to its MOST absurd, MOST overexaggerated, MOST comically unimaginable extreme. Never has a lead singer been able to screech and bellow in such an overecstatic mood; never has any collection of riffs sounded so jagged, so sleazy, so over-the-top, so loud and frenetic and all in due place at the same time - hell, it's not just a bunch of noise these guys are making, it's real dissectable riffs, and they really mean it. And no matter how much I respect Bon Scott's musical presence - let's face it, who the heck cares if Bon Scott's version of the band had more 'sense' to it? Does anybody in his right mind even try to take stuff like 'Problem Child' as serious social commentary or anything, anyway? And even if he does, wouldn't he be beaten to pulp in an instant by somebody extolling the virtues of really serious social prophets a la Lou Reed or Iggy Pop instead? Does Bon Scott stand competition with these guys? He doesn't, because he doesn't need to. He's different. And in the sense in which he's different, Brian Johnson easily improves on it. AC/DC had always been laughable (in a good sense) goofballs (in an even better sense), and Johnson just nails it further. And so, we're all sorry that Bon Scott died on that unlucky day in 1980, but fact is, his replacement does everything possible to overshadow the guy, and bring the band to their peak. I mean, does AC/DC's brand of bringing rock to its ridiculous extremes get any better than the album's opener, 'Hell's Bells'? Granted, at the time the song was often taken as having a serious message - dedicated to Bon's death and everything - but for those unacquainted with the band's history, or those who are just willing to ignore it, it's just goofiness personified. The opening bell toll, the amazing pair of riffs that Malcolm and Angus crank out - I still can't fully decide if it's the "spot the two clashing guitars" verse riff or the magnificent descending chorus riff that's my favourite - and, of course, Brian's versatile screeching as he slowly gets higher and higher and higher during the verses, peaking before the chorus ('I'M GONNA GET YOU! SATAN GET YOU!') and then crashing into the chorus, plus perhaps the best solo Angus Young has ever given out; to say 'frenetic' about this track, even if it's all thoroughly midtempo, would be to say nothing. It's my favourite AC/DC song, by the way. The "Satanic" message only reappears on one other track - the title one, which is also overdriven beyond measure and whose riff is sheer genius (Pete Townshend would sure have loved to have written that one!), but, of course, the real meat of the album is, er, that meat, which comes measured in inches and is always ready for action. The power trio of 'Shoot To Thrill', 'What Do You Do For Money Honey', and 'Given The Dog A Bone' (the latter about the oral variety in case the defiantly ungrammatical title might confuse you) has to stand as the most bedazzling celebration of dumb, caveman machismo ever created - never mind that, for instance, the riff to 'What Do You Do...' was obviously recycled from past stuff... well, hell, this is ALL recycled material, but for some reason it just sounds sharper, thicker, denser, than before. And they sure base themselves on some nice-looking tradition - 'Shoot To Thrill' almost seems to revel in its Who-ish sound, with Angus' solo alternating the rhythmic power chord style with the 'solo madman' approach just as effortlessly as any ecstatic Live At Leeds passage. In fact, if 'Hells Bells' is my favourite song in the band's catalog, then the manic, ferocious, balls-out climax of the instrumental section in 'Shoot To Thrill' (when Angus' "clean" solo gives way to the frenetic power chords at 2:53 into the song) is my absolute favourite moment in it. It took rock'n'roll twenty-five years since its birthdate to reach this stage, and now The Deed Is Done! Don't forget the anthems, either - 'You Shook Me All Night Long', AC/DC's trademark song, the ultimate four-four stadium rock thumper that I'd probably hate weren't it belonging in the "so dumb it's great" category (well, like about 120% of all AC/DC material anyway), and while 'Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise Pollution' is probably not much of a convincing ode to the devil's music, it still stands out as a rather fitting conclusion to the boys' sharpest statement ever. (And I really like it - although a whole album of songs like these would have been sheer torture, and that is exactly why For Those About To Rock was such a massive letdown). I mean, yeah, Back In Black is hardly perfect; no AC/DC album is without its percent of filler, and I personally don't quite understand the appeal of the "ballad rocker" 'Let Me Put My Love Into You' (although it is fun to see how well they're managing to "replace" the obligatory metallic power ballad with something 'ballad-like' in form, but just as ballsy, sexist, and mean in spirit), not to mention that 'Have A Drink On Me' and 'Shake A Leg' also present a rather weak spot on the second side - they'd be great on their own, but they're essentially just a teeny bit slightly inferior copies of 'What Do You Do For Money' and 'Shoot To Thrill', so it's just not as fun to have them here. On the other hand, how could an AC/DC album be an AC/DC album if it didn't have at least a couple of songs that sounded exactly the same, riffage and all? Just take it or leave it, big guy. Rumours actually have it that most of the songs were written before Bon's death, and some even featured different, sometimes far less sexist lyrics - but if you axe me, I'd prefer the final product as it is, with all the 'I'm like evil, I get under your skin just like a bomb that's ready to blow' stuff (how the heck is a bomb that's ready to blow supposed to get under your skin???) and all the insane high-pitched yelling. This is supposed to be over the top, and the Young brothers and Brian do put it over the top in a way that wasn't possible just two years ago or so. Don't make the mistake of praising this album in 'this really rocks!' terms, or dismissing it in 'this is gross sexist nonsense' terms. It's all of that and yet none of that. It's something to get wild and malevolent to, and yet it's fully self-conscious at the same time - it doesn't even pretend to be evil (like, say, Motley Crue), much less amount to being evil (like, say, the Stooges). It's rock'n'roll comedy showtime, baby, and for a bunch of wild-eyed Australian kids to harness true rock'n'roll energy and streamline it into the comedy vein without even once splashing in the (self-)parody vein is one heck of an achievement.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1981Record rating = 5
Even if I am about to rock, this is a pisspoor argument at best.Best song: SNOWBALLED? Heck, they're all mediocre.
Track listing: 1) For Those About To Rock (We Salute You); 2) Put The Finger On You; 3) Let's Get It Up; 4) Inject The Venom; 5) Snowballed; 6) Evil Walks; 7) C.O.D.; 8) Breaking The Rules; 9) Night Of The Long Knives; 10) Spellbound.
Talk about "duh" - we were on a roll and we blew it, blew it, blew it entirely and completely. Speaking honestly, this album can be enjoyable - but only if you're a diehard AC/DC zombie monster, or if it's your very first exposion to the band and you haven't heard either of the two hard rock classics that preceded it. In any other context, I can't see it not being a serious disappointment. But first, here's the good news: Brian Johnson's voice is still in full force, rattling off your walls like insane firecrackers (a shitty simile, but at times like these even a shitty simile is better than no simile at all), the band is in top form when it comes to gelling tight, and - ohmygosh! - they, like, use real cannons on the title track (and have continued to do this ever since, burdening their roadies with old rusty cannons for every subsequent tour where the song had the misfortune of being performed).Also, it's interesting to notice that there's been a slight change in atmosphere: where Back In Black was your basic party-all-night-long album, For Those About... introduces a lot more darkness and "devil games". Most of the songs on the 1980 album were about lust 'n' sex, with just one track dedicated to Satan. Here, it's almost the reverse: one after another, Brian pens songs about evil, injustice, long knives, and stuff like that, with maybe just a couple cock rock anthems in sight. In short, we're getting older and seriouser. The bad news is, nobody but the select few with psychologic problems really pay attention to the lyrics of Brian Johnson, at least, to a level where his "social" stuff impresses one more than his "genital" stuff. And as for the rest, well, after Back In Black the technical prowess of the band should be taken for granted. What we really need to see is more of those riffs and more of that ass-kicking... and, well, we do see something like that, but it's certainly far behind our dreams. Not that there was any talk of topping Back In Black, but there wasn't any talk about such a quick downwards slide either. It's as if, instead of going into the studio and actually working on fresh new material, they just took a bunch of old demos of (justfully) rejected songs and released them as a follow-up to quickly cash in on the success of Back In Black, hoping that nobody would notice. Well I did. You know you're in trouble when the first two songs on the album begin with almost exactly the same riff pattern, and you know you're in bigger trouble when you realize this pattern was almost exactly lifted off the guitar-only mid-section of 'Shoot To Thrill'. This is but one - but a very typical - example of the dreadful rut in which AC/DC suddenly find themselves. In the past, they had little trouble reusing their riffs over and over, because with each new record came some minor improvement. They could get faster, or they could get a really mean guitar tone, or they could employ Mutt Lange to get a crisper production. After Highway To Hell and Back In Black, there was essentially NO FRIGGIN' WAY they could improve on that formula. None at all and none whatsoever. Just about every song on here, with a couple minor exceptions maybe, finds its analogy on the two preceding records, and it's hardly in favour of For Those... Even so, they could have fared better. The riffs are reused, but they're simply nowhere near as interesting this time around. Lots of power chords, lots of painfully slow songs that just don't go anywhere. The minute you heard, uh, I dunno, 'What Do You Do For Money Honey', you had this vision of the rhythm guitar taking off and boldly leading you somewhere at a steady, secure pace... nothing like that on here. I don't even understand why the title track is considered such an obvious classic; it's just a lethargic lumpy dinosaur. All power chords and unmemorable screaming, culminating in the ridiculous cannon use. If you ask me, it was just a populist move - aware of the fact that they were, at least temporarily, creatively spent, AC/DC just hastily penned a second-rate sequel to 'Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise Pollution' and spiced it with an overall anthemic feel, to give their fans something raucously pompous. The fans digested it submissively. The best moment of the song - actually, of the whole record - is when they finally wake up at the end and speed the proceedings up, but, of course, it's way too late to pay any attention already, plus you're just too busy sweeping cannonball shards off your Persian rug. And the other songs? 'Put The Finger On You' is like a toothless 'Shoot To Thrill', without any true aggression, shamelessly exploiting major chords and essentially sounding like a piss-poor power pop number. (No offense, but a collective AC/DC happily chanting 'I put the finger right on you, you put the finger on me too!' is quite far from my ideal perception of this band). 'Let's Get It Up' is another quasi-anthem... on the Prindle site, somebody remarked it had a Stones feel to it, kinda like 'Start Me Up' or something like that, but it sorely lacks the looseness of the Stones, with the players locked into this unchangeable, immovable groove that's not really a groove because you know you can't do anything with that riff except just monotonously repeat it over and over again. Had enough of slow overblown anthems? Who cares what you had enough of! Take 'Night Of The Long Knives', you pathetic sucker, and revel in all of its power chord, lighter-up glory! When AC/DC actually 'inject the venom' into the songwriting, the results are slightly more laudable. The grittiest tunes here are jammed in the middle, with 'C.O.D.' and 'Snowballed' taking the grand prize, even if the actual jackpot had already been plundered by Back In Black. (We'll skip the fact that 'Snowballed' again recycles the riff of 'Shoot To Thrill'). And out of desperation, I'll also say that I kinda like 'Spellbound'. It's all power chords once again, but there's some kind of "minor brother to 'Hell's Bells'' syndrome here which has a certain unidentifiable appeal. Maybe it's just that the way Brian sings 'spellbound, my world keeps tumbling down' has something in the way of hooks about it. Or maybe they just steal way too many things from 'Hells Bells' for the song. All in all, a tremendous disappointment. Expected disappointment (how the hell AC/DC could ever top Back In Black is a hypothetical question that no-one yet has managed to answer), but maybe even a more shocking one than expected. The few good songs and the fact that at least instrumentally and vocally, the band is still at the top of their game prevent me from giving it an all-time low rating, but I somehow thought the situation could have been less morose. Cannons! Imagine that!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983Record rating = 9
And again - at the top of their metallic best! Loud and a-swaggerin'!Best song: LANDSLIDE
Track listing: 1) Rising Power; 2) This House Is On Fire; 3) Flick Of The Switch; 4) Nervous Shakedown; 5) Landslide; 6) Guns For Hire; 7) Deep In The Hole; 8) Bedlam In Belgium; 9) Badlands; 10) Brain Shake.
Who'd a-thunk of that - after the descent into lumbering pomposity, all of a sudden, a last moment gasp of brilliance, and how! This is not only much better than For Those..., it's almost a return on to Back In Black level, although marred a bit by the fact that there are no obvious stand-out classics like 'You Shook Me All Night Long' and 'Hell's Bells' - but almost compensated by the rawer, louder, and more in-yer-face production values. Which was not accidental - the band took a year off and then returned to the studio to push out 'Mutt' Lange, obviously with the aim of returning to their 'dirtier' sound of old, and produce the new album themselves. Not that the differences in production come to you at once; Lange's lessons were apparently taken to heart and even if the man was no longer there himself, his legacy was preserved on the subconscious level, so it seems. A few listens, though, and you're almost there.But the really big difference is that Flick Of The Switch is totally free of that 'We're The Gods Of Anthemic Rock' attitude assumed on the last record, the attitude that apparently left the Young brothers free from writing new riffs and gave them the right to just produce one stuttering power-chord dinosaur after another. Funny thing is, Flick Of The Switch is easily the band's most cock-rock free album ever as well: most of the songs deal with violence, hard times, paranoia and so on. No party anthems or slut odes here (well maybe just a couple - isn't 'Flick Of The Switch' a variation on the 'Given The Dog A Bone' theme?), just good old mean 'n' lean rock'n'roll. And the band delivers. What strikes me in particular is that this time around - clean up your ears, and get this - there are no recycled riffs lying around. Well, again, maybe just a couple or so that I haven't identified, but overall it's pretty clear that the Young brothers actually spent all that time playing off one another, not relistening to the old records. Virtually every tune on here is a superb riff-rocker building up on chord sequences that hadn't been abused before. They may be simple and simplistic sequences, but they're new ones. Just put on the record and listen to the opening riff of 'Rising Power', symbolizing the entire record. A minor flaw might be that every single song is built according to exactly the same formula: opening riff, then a constant constant never-ending build-up build-up BUILD-UP GUITAR SOLO BUIIILLLDD UUUP to the ecstatic climax and THE BIG BANG to end the tune. Granted, just about every single AC/DC song is built according to that formula, but since, for instance, Back In Black had a little bit stylistic diversity in addition (cock rock plus Satanic rock plus Gods Of Rock rock), it's easy to see why the critics weren't all too happy about the album when it came out. Troo AC/DC fanz luv it tho'! Hey, there are even a couple faster songs on here! 'Landslide' is absolutely terrific, faster than anything on Back In Black and the one true AC/DC classic on this album if there ever was to be one. Those who thought the days of 'Let There Be Rock' were long gone by already should rejoice: the Young brothers are just as tight and smooth on the fast numbers as they were before, and Brian Johnson sure can pull off a rapid-fire vocal delivery as well, especially in those good old days when his voice was still as good as new. The guitar solo is pretty reminiscent of Angus' wild overdrive on 'Whole Lotta Rosie' either, except that all the solos on this album are economic and "unpretentious", I could say. 'Brain Shake' is a little bit slower, but still a terrific way to end the album, with classy vocal hooks (if you're ready to except a wild wild scream for a hook, that is) and a somewhat retro-ish Fifties-style melody if you listen to the verses carefully. All the other tunes are strictly mid-tempo, of course, but they're still written according to the highest standards of AC/DC melody making, with every song just going ahead and kicking your ass without mocking you about how 'hey son, I sure can kick your ass even if I'm the same old recycled song you already heard thirty times before! Eat this!'. The opening riff of 'Rising Power' is simple to the extreme, but effective. 'This House Is On Fire' does seem to be eerily similar to 'Hell's Bells' (cf. 'hell's bells!' - 'this house is on fire!'), but the riff is different and actually the song is less cartoonish than its predecessor. The title track opens with the same three power chords that initiate 'What Do You Do For Money Honey', but then the song receives a completely different inventive ascending riff - in fact, there's a playing technique employed here that I don't recall Malcolm ever using before. 'Nervous Shakedown' has cool call-and-answer vocal interplay in the chorus. 'Guns For Hire' has Angus toying around with his guitar tone before the tune actually starts and the catchiest chorus on the record - 'guns for hire, shoot you with desire!'. And so on, culminating in 'Bedlam In Belgium', the record's most "ballsy" tune that seems to actually have to do with some real live show experience that the band had while touring - it's their 'Smoke On The Water', maybe less "epochal" overall, but definitely right up there when it comes to Rightful Arse Kicking! And carrying that culmination over to the bluesy-as-hell 'Badlands'; in fact, it's so bluesy I could see it recorded by Led Zeppelin, but, of course, Robert Plant could never squeeze out such an ecstatic, balls-to-the-wall 'In the BAAAAAAAADLANDS!' as Brian Johnson was capable at his best. In conclusion, just count this as a weak overall twelve compared to the strong one of Highway To Hell if you wish: all I know is I had about the same amount of fun while listening to the record. It's totally incomprehensible to me how for so many people Flick Of The Switch represents the start of AC/DC's "decline" - including, as it seems, the band itself, given their reluctance to perform any of this material live after the original promotion tour. Why? Isn't 'Landslide' an awesome choice to rile up the audience? Is 'Bedlam In Belgium' too "intelligent" for an average AC/DC concert? Or are the vocal lines on these songs too power-demanding for Brian Johnson nowadays? I'm inclined to believe the latter hypothesis, since this is indeed the last time you're gonna have that much fun with a Brian Johnson record, as the guy would start losing his amazing voice in about a year's time, too. Smoking and drinking is bad for your vocal cords, I guess. AC/DC should have recorded an anti-nicotine song. And an anti-alcohol one. And a pro-safe-sex anthem. And a sincere Christian gospel tune. And... Hey! I didn't invite Mark Farner and Tipper Gore to guest star on this review of mine! I promise to be more careful next time!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1985Record rating = 7
"...Of Our Lead Singer's Windpipe". Isn't that supposed to be written on the flip side of the cover?Best song: PLAYING WITH GIRLS
Track listing: 1) Fly On The Wall; 2) Shake Your Foundations; 3) First Blood; 4) Danger; 5) Sink The Pink; 6) Playing With Girls; 7) Stand Up; 8) Hell Or High Water; 9) Back In Business; 10) Send For The Man.
Well, no shit dude, we got problems. We only just started to climb out again and now we got big problems again, even if they're just starting. To tell the truth, this album could be almost as good as Flick Of The Switch. With one or two exceptions, most notably the title track which is just kinda one big power-chord mess with both guitars trying to outdo each other in the "who can make the loudest 'whaaaaaaaaaaangzzzzzzzhhhh!' sound?", the songwriting is pretty strong. Sure, the riffs are mostly recycled once again (this time, it looks like the fresh streak of Switch has provided most of the inspiration), but there's enough catchy choruses and enough basic ass-kickin' on here to last you through the day anyway. Lyrical subjects are mainly the same (but is 'First Blood' really a hint at defloration? Hey, this hasn't been tackled before!), but if that surprises you, you're far less experienced than I thought.Too bad for Brian Johnson, though, whose voice is finally starting to give way from the excesses of the rock'n'roll life. Not that I can really blame him - I tried singing along to his 'what do you do for money honey how do you get your licks?' bridge once and had to take cough drops for a couple hours after that - but burning out is burning out, no matter how soon you initiate the process. After just three albums with the band, he's already starting to develop that hoarse ragged gargle that would later bring many a vocal-conscious listener (and I mean the kind of listener who's not that enchanted with the band's overall sound to not even friggin' notice any difference between Brian Johnson circa 1980 and circa 1990 - believe you me, there are some like that!) to the brink of fainting. So far it's not too bad, but they are nevertheless trying to conceal it by masking the problems with reverb and echo effects, which immediately spoil the classic AC/DC sound, making the singing sound detached and unclear. In addition to that, one change triggers another, and the album is abominably produced in general, with the guitars mixing with each other so you can't distinguish between them. To make matters worse, Phil Rudd quit the band and was replaced by the much inferior Simon Wright (well, okay, maybe it's just the production that makes all these drums sound so weak and tinny). That said, while all these problems are obvious, this by no means explains the usual negativity towards this record (most AC/DC fans - at least, most AC/DC fans that do not press reviewers to give a 10 out of 10 to every AC/DC album on Earth - consider Fly On The Wall the first album in AC/DC's late Eighties losing streak). Because, piss-poor production and gargling echoey singing aside, the energy is still going strong. The songs, once again, deal with the "fuck the system" component rather than getting laid, and overall, it's like a minor disfunctional brother to Flick Of The Switch, if you get my drift: strong, inspired tunes with an occasional duffer thrown in the mix, suffering from an unwisely chosen recording approach. 'Sink The Pink' is probably the one song every AC/DC lover cherishes from the album, but it's not even the best one - sure the riffage is fine, a bit poppy in the Highway To Hell mode, maybe, but that's never been a problem with these guys, and the chorus is catchy, but it's nowhere near as catchy as 'aiiie-yaiieeee-yeouw - SHAKE YOUR FOUNDATIONS!', for instance, which gets me going on a far more consistent basis. I have to admit the overall effect is rather stupid, but that's the deal, ain't it? As for pure musical thrill, I'd say 'Playing With Girls' is your best bet, as it's one of the few tunes on here where the Young brothers actually refrain from the usual stop-and-start formula and go with a complex, thrilling interplay (Angus supposedly winding his tricky chords around Malcolm's steadier rhythm, or is that vice versa?), right until the chorus where the melody changes and they play this little funky riff in unison with Brian's singing. The main melody is a bit too similar to 'Landslide', of course, but then again, 'Landslide' was the best song on Flick Of The Switch, and this slightly slowed-down and ever so slightly funkified variation is no slouch, either. In fact, nearly every song has this little bit of catchiness that helps you get along. Sometimes that catchiness can actually be a bitch - I mean, when the chorus of 'Hell Or High Water' comes on for the five hundredth time ('come hell or high water! come hell or high water! come hell or high water!') you kinda start remembering with nostalgia the old days when Bon Scott, you know, could be bothered to come up with a little bit more of actual lyrics so the band didn't have to compensate for the shortness of the song with a draggy coda. But I never said this album didn't have its problems - problems which can be compensated for with tricks like the masterful riff of 'Back In Business', for instance. I used to be pretty sceptical about 'Danger', which looked plodding, clumsy, pretentious, and boring, but even that particular tune eventually gets under your skin - as dumb as 'danger, danger, don't talk to strangers' might sound, it sounds impressive, and Angus raises the adrenaline level with his well-placed high-pitch wailing in all the right places. Very minimalist, very hard-hitting once you finish concentrating on the "boy, but is it ever stupid" idea. Perhaps the thing I miss the most is the presence of a good old fast rocker, something like the real 'Landslide', to settle any doubt about whether AC/DC do have it going, after all, or maybe not. But it's still much better than the lethargic power-chord crappiness of For Those About To Rock anyway. The album cover is pretty nifty, too. Don't you like how AC/DC never follow metal conventions? Without all those skulls and bones and blood all over the place? I guess they never really used to consider themselves "evil-rock" anyway. Maybe that's what diehard fans find so offensive about it? The album cover? Where's Angus Young with yet another dumbass facial expression, of all things? Why do we get this Sesame Street level image? Well, frankly speaking, I don't know why. But I like it. If only the chap hadn't lost his voice.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1988Record rating = 8
At least the speed's up. That's gotta account for something.Best song: MEANSTREAK
Track listing: 1) Heatseeker; 2) That's The Way I Wanna Rock'n'Roll; 3) Meanstreak; 4) Go Zone; 5) Kissin' Dynamite; 6) Nick Of Time; 7) Some Sin For Nuthin'; 8) Ruff Stuff; 9) Two's Up; 10) This Means War.
For some reason that's really, really, really hard to understand without experiencing some sort of pseudo-Zen enlightenment, Blow Up Your Video is the one and only one AC/DC album that hardcore AC/DC fans can occasionally allow themselves to put down. Keep that in mind when a bunch of 'em falls upon you in a dark alley with sledgehammers and bicycle chains - just whisper some lyrics from "That's The Way I Wanna Rock'n'Roll" into their collective ear and most probably they will just leave you wimpering on the ground like some particularly infectious little piece of scum they don't wanna mess around with. If you love this record, you don't even deserve to be beaten.I also benefit from this, because I happen to think it's a pretty good album. Yeah, you heard. Certainly rather just "good" than anywhere approaching the megacoolness of you-know-what, but the fact is, I do have no idea why this, and pretty much nothing else (occasionally Fly On The Wall) is being so often chosen as the scapegoat for everything else. Lack of good riffs? But ladies and gentlemen, it's impossible to deny that BUYV has got, at the very least, twice as many good riffs as the eternal favourite For Those About To... (In fact, I'd say the killer duo of 'Meanstreak' and 'Some Sin For Nuthin' alone has that album beat already). Bad vocals? Sure that's a minus, but they've been bad since 1985 and they're still bad; this never stopped the fans from loving Brian Johnson like he were the second coming of Shalyapin. At least Brian still has some vocal power left, and they're still using that reverb mask effectively. Crappy lyrics? Don't know, never consulted the lyrics sheets and never will. Poor production (courtesy of George and Vanda Young again)? That's a frequent complaint, but I dunno, I hear the guitars just fine. Fact is, it's just another good old AC/DC album. In their usual style. And it kicks ass - regularly! And I tell you what: it's got a whole dang three fast rockers, which probably means the guys were in a particularly fun-lovin' mood when they recorded it. I mean, the first two songs are basically just your average boogie thing, no anger or venom or overdriven sexism involved or anything. Perhaps it's this "inoffensiveness" that turns people off the album; after all, the guitar sound that they employ on 'Heatseeker' relies exclusively on happy party-time chords that are, indeed, regularly overused on corporate rock products. But who cares if the song still has plenty of energy and all? Try as they might, Foreigner couldn't have recorded anything like this in a million years. Nor could, uh, KISS, for instance. It's a weirdly happy brand of AC/DC music, but it still sounds great. 'That's The Way I Wanna Rock'n'Roll' even goes further in that it isn't influenced by thirty-year old boogie: it is a thirty-year-old boogie, just spiked with loud distorted guitars and Johnson's "dying dog" vocals. It does sound a little bit silly because the band never did anything that much 'retro' in a million years time, if ever, but that's still not a reason to dismiss the song. And besides, even if you do, there's still 'This Means War', the fastest of them all, based on flawless arpeggiated playing from Angus which would later be "rethunk over" and worked into the main riff of 'Thunderstruck'. See, these songs all have funny "pseudo-identities" of their own! Don't they? A happy boogie-influenced tune, a retro boogie all by itself, and a weirdly arpeggiated speed-metal composition. This certainly means AC/DC weren't exactly running out of steam in 1988. Out of the "slow" tunes, then, I'd also select three as "reputation-creating" for the album. 'Meanstreak' is a hot blues-funk-rocker with a top notch riff in the chorus and another top one in the verse (clear sign of a classic!), while Johnson does the best of his unfortunate vocal range to still come across as aggressive, dangerous, and grossly evil. It is actually AC/DC trying to do something mildly different from the rigid formula, like they did on Highway To Hell, and succeeding at it. 'Some Sin For Nuthin' is the record's second "we're just as mischievous as always" type of number, with an anthemic chorus that I would rate as one of the band's best ever - come on, put it back to back with 'Hell's Bells' and decide for yourself which one pounds at your brain with its exaggerated devilish intonations and theatrical menace. 'Hell's Bells' just came first, that's all. (Note that "some" is the subject here and "sin" the predicate - isn't it funny how AC/DC, such a supposedly lyrically dumb band, just love syntactic ambiguity? Even if none of the band's members probably have the least idea of what syntactic ambiguity is?) And finally, 'Two's Up' finds the band employing minor jangly chords in an absolutely new (for them, of course) way - sounding a little bit like generic Eighties power metal at first, but then again, since everything actually acquires value in context, it's kinda interesting to see them try their hand at something like this. They can do pathos well when it's necessary. Not that I'm going to insist that all the songs are good or anything, I'm not that controversial. There's definitely a bunch of so-so filler in between the highlights. 'Ruff Stuff', for instance - never can remember how that one goes exactly. 'Nick Of Time' ain't exactly filler, but I still can't make up my mind if it's a first-rate rocker in the classic vein or AC/DC's misguided attempt at figuring out what a mainstream synth-pop number would sound like if played with hard rocking guitars instead (note how the guitars weirdly imitate wimpy synths during the bridge?). 'Kissin' Dynamite' kicks major ass but is somehow unceremoniously mimicking the vocal melody of John Fogerty's 'Old Man Down The Road' - weird feeling. And 'Go Zone' is the one song that has too much of a For Those About To Vomit flavour to it - pompous power chords and all that 'are you ready to rock?' crap. Actually, even the highlights, with the exception of 'Meanstreak', maybe, aren't breathtaking masterpieces by AC/DC standards. It's just that it's kinda silly to say that AC/DC were "losing it" around the time. An AC/DC album can be considered decent if it (a) kicks ass and [supplementary] (b) if it features a few very very slight subtle "modifications" from the previous record (supplementary, because, for instance, there were no such modifications on Flick Of The Switch - it just kicked so much ass I had to give it a high rating before I'd have mine annihilated). This one, more or less, satisfies the requirements, and can be enjoyed all the way through immediately, without the need to go to boot camp. So...?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1990Record rating = 9
A perfect rebound. Can I forgive the low percentage of filler? Heck, it's my site, I'll forgive what I want.Best song: FIRE YOUR GUNS
Track listing: 1) Thunderstruck; 2) Fire Your Guns; 3) Moneytalks; 4) The Razor's Edge; 5) Mistress For Christmas; 6) Rock Your Heart Out; 7) Are You Ready; 8) Got You By The Balls; 9) Shot Of Love; 10) Let's Make It; 11) Goodbye & Good Riddance To Bad Luck; 12) If You Dare.
It's never too late to make a fresh start - and seeing as how AC/DC kicked off the previous decade in such a glorious fashion, I'm making a documentally unfounded, but nevertheless very reasonable guess that with The Razor's Edge, these guys were going to make a Back In Black for the 90s. Toughen up the act! Wind up the guitars! And screw all the glossiness! The Eighties are over, after all, it's time to genuinely start kicking ass again. Bring the house down and all.And darn it if this album doesn't rock my boat. Count this as a slightly lower 12 than Flick Of The Switch for exactly two reasons. One: two of the songs on here are violently shitty. This is 'Are You Ready', which is too moronically anthemic; and 'Good Riddance To Bad Luck', which is moronically unmemorable. Then again, nothing these guys did was ever perfect from beginning to end. Two: Brian Johnson's ever deteriorating voice. Dropping production excesses means having his shredded vocals upfront, and now you finally get to witness just how low the once mighty has sunk. On the unexpected positive side, at least now he's honest about it, and at least he still stays on key; the bubbling and rasping which now accompany every single vowel sound of his I can swallow. But everything, practically everything else about this album is swell. Riffs! Vocal hooks! Insane solos! 'Thunderstruck' was the massive hit single, and you probably remember it for the maddeningly fast "hammer-on" style riff which drives it forward - and becomes even more awesome once Angus and Malcolm start weaving these fast-played lines around each other. The vocal melody of that song is far from perfect, and the chorus is less than rudimentary (what the heck am I supposed to do with 'you've been... OOOH... THUNDERSTRUCK!' and nothing else?), but oh the guitars. Indeed, they never really played like that before, and never would play like that ever after, so here's a first and a last for you. Cool song. But my fav is 'Fire Your Guns'. Wow man, that's the shit. AC/DC don't play fast too often, but almost every time they do, it's pudding time children. And not only do they play fast, they get not one, but two classic riffs going here, plus some 'Whole Lotta Rosie'-style solos (too bad they didn't bring Angus higher in the mix) and, this time, a chorus that really rips your teddy bear to pieces. If 'Thunderstruck' is this album's 'Back In Black', then 'Fire Your Guns' is its 'Shoot To Thrill': the ambition-less fast rocker that lets you learn what quintessential rock and roll is in three or four minutes, not a thing more, not a thing less. Simple, crunchy, and hits you directly in the guts - why nobody is able to do it as fine as AC/DC still remains one of the biggest mysteries of the universe, along with Stonehenge, the Loch Ness monster, and the sexual preferences of Pete Townshend. But then there's more! 'Moneytalks' is almost uncozily poppy for AC/DC - no apparent menace in the song at all - but the five-note riff, with just about the perfect tone and duration of every one of the five, should be treasured, and shows that they are still able to keep it simple, stupid, and ingenious. Even so, my fav moment is when Angus steps in with the solo, suddenly transforming the song into generic barroom rock, but oh gee, if only all generic barroom rock were like this... For some reason, the song reminds me of the original style of Geordie (see below), even if Brian Johnson had little to do with its creation: even the lyrics on the album, in their entirety, are credited to the Young brothers this time. Continuing the BIB analogy, 'The Razor's Edge' is this album's 'Hell's Bells': suitably creepy and devilish, although quite different musically. In fact, this is one of the rare occasions when AC/DC are actually trying to create a particular atmosphere within the song, going way beyond the minimalistic church bells of 'Hell's Bells'. There are simple, but clever guitar overdubs (power chords strewn over fast ringing guitars - I like that approach, I do); almost goth-like background chanting; and subtle tension build-up from the introduction into the main body of the song. It hardly manages to overshadow 'Hell's Bells' - you'd need one hell of a monster riff to make me forget that song's ominous pounding - but it's a worthy follow-up. Oh, and the lyrics aren't nearly as laughable (not that this is necessarily an asset - AC/DC are absolutely immune when it comes to lyrics). These four songs are the only ones that get the "awesome" mark from me, but most of the rest is pretty good as well. Good lads that they are, they don't stop at 'Fire Your Guns' when speed is concerned and give us two more ass-kicking speedfests (well, by AC/DC criteria - we're not talking Slayer here): 'Rock Your Heart Out' does exactly that, and the ever so slower 'Shot Of Love' is mean, lean, bluesy and Bon Scotty. You know there was this period when they liked to construct one riff out of two guitars? With Angus going "CHUG" and Malcolm going "LUG LUG" and then all of a sudden it all fits together and it's like the two guitars are having a brawny conversation? That's what happens in 'Shot Of Love'. Again. Like in good ol' '77. I even like the lumpy monstrosity of 'She's Got You By The Balls' - there's something so intoxicatingly moronic about Brian Johnson screaming 'hey Mr businessman, head of the companEEEEEE!' that it makes me want to forgive them one more weak chorus (after such a tremendous build-up you really don't expect them to push the verse riff into the chorus as well). The frathouse anthem 'Let's Make It' would suck if there were too many of these songs, but coming right off the heels of 'Shot Of Love', it's acceptable. And what a better way to end the album than with a rabble-rousin' misogynistic brawl of 'If You Dare'? Didn't the Beatles do the same on Rubber Soul? Overall, one can argue about all the merits and limits of Razor's Edge, but there's no denying that this was an obvious attempt to shed all the extra pounds of cellulite that they'd gained since 1983. Whether it worked or not is up to you to decide. I do buy this and everything that goes along with it, and the bits of filler don't worry me in the least in light of all the excellent material. They were rewarded with their biggest hit in years and an obvious increase in popularity - and that's fine by me as well. Hey, I remember catching the 'Thunderstruck' video way back when the very name of AC/DC was enough for me to piss my pants - and even then there was this tiny bit of thought in the back of my mind, 'you know, these guys do have the spark, don't they?'.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1992Record rating = 9
HEADBANGERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! ARE YOU READY FOR A GOOD TIME?Best song: not a weak spot anywhere.
Track listing: CD I: 1) Thunderstruck; 2) Shoot To Thrill; 3) Back In Black; 4) Sin City; 5) Who Made Who; 6) Heatseeker; 7) Fire Your Guns; 8) Jailbreak; 9) The Jack; 10) The Razor's Edge; 11) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap; 12) Moneytalks;CD II: 1) Hells Bells; 2) Are You Ready; 3) That's The Way I Want My Rock'n'Roll; 4) High Voltage; 5) You Shook Me All Night Long; 6) Whole Lotta Rosie; 7) Let There Be Rock; 8) Bonny; 9) Highway To Hell; 10) T.N.T.; 11) For Those About To Rock.
Whoah! The damn guitars are still roaring deep inside my eardrums as I'm starting to review this monster-volume 2 CD edition of what is AC/DC's best live album ever (there's also a single CD edition, but who needs it, really? If you're a real fan, all your money should already be in the Young brothers' pockets anyway. You don't need it - they do. Money talks, remember). And it's the best live AC/DC album because it's longer than If You Want Blood, it's phenomenally better recorded than If You Want Blood, and it's far more comprehensive, too.Of course, it's got Brian Johnson at the height of his dis-power, so you gotta have to take that. But honestly, it is possible to get over the fact that he sounds like he's gonna drop dead at any minute. Because minute after minute goes by, and he still does not drop dead, but just keeps rasping on and on for over two hours! That's gotta count for something. And then you gotta realize that, after all, the vocals in this band have never meant all that much next to the awesome guitar sound. It's the chugga-chugga that counts, not the aiyee-aiyeee-yay. Plus, let's not be too harsh - Mr Johnson still makes everything possible to stay in the right key, even if his range is shot. And he does rev up the audience just the right way, even if "the right way" for the most part stands for "aggressively spelling out the title of the following song" (as in "you want some dirty deeds? YOU WANT SOME DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP? HRRRRRR!"). The album has occasionally been accused of being perfunctory and by-the-book, and that's true, but the thing is, with AC/DC "by-the-book" normally equals "by-the-balls". When they're not going by the book, they most probably suck; the closer they stick to their schtick, the truer they gots their guts, if you know what I mean. What mars the overall effect a bit is the way the sound fades out after almost every single song and then fades back in, disrupting the continuity of the performance. This may have been honest, because the band members actually recorded several dozen shows and chose the best performances, but it reeks a bit of the Greatest Hits Live approach, you know. I'd rather they didn't. Still, on the other hand, why not? Look at the track listing - isn't it awesome? I like how they basically did an overview of their entire career, not forgetting such old bearded classics as 'T.N.T.' and even 'Jailbreak'. There is one glaring omission, though: nothing from the 1983-1985 period, unless you count the ayyee-ayyy-ayyye audience interaction part in 'High Voltage' which sort of looks lifted from 'Shake Your Foundations'... okay, bad joke. A couple numbers from Flick Of The Switch would have fitted in quite nicely - it is way beyond me why the band tend to disown their second best Brian Johnson album. Just because it marked their first serious drop in sales? They're not that commercial-minded, are they? Concerning the question of Brian Johnson taking on Bon Scott-era material, there's absolutely no problem with that: by the early Nineties, he'd been doing that for over a decade, and besides, it's not as if the attitudes were incompatible in the first place. And the band still kick up a storm on the oldies - in fact, it took me a good listen to this live album to realize just how much 'Sin City' kicks ass. I liked it on Powerage, sure enough, but it's only here that it actually starts burning on Hell-produced gasoline. The version of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' is a bit of a disappointment; they rush through the song too quickly for it to make much of an impact. And 'The Jack' is still an acquired taste, I guess, although I still like it, especially now that it helps relieve a little tension and offers a bit of slow bluesy relaxation in between all the jackhammer riffage. But then there's 'T.N.T.' whose fabled 'OI! OI! OI! OI!', with the volume properly adjusted, seem to bounce and ricochet off your walls like tennis balls, and there's 'Highway To Hell', which, at this moment, looks like a visionary ode from Bon to Brian rather than a prophecy of Bon's death. Cool tools. Two of the oldies have been puffed up, extended, and transformed into vehicles for Angus' ego - 'Jailbreak' and 'Let There Be Rock' both feature extended and essentially similar solo guitar parties which you can take or leave (as far as I know, neither of the two is present on the 1-CD version, so make your choice). I don't actually think these work as good as they could work in the context of an actual show, because, frankly, Angus isn't that inventive when he's left alone on stage, and after two minutes, his endless arpeggios and vibratos start running out of steam; he works much better in the context of his bro' and his rhythm section. Still, he's a cool teaser at times, abruptly cutting off the havoc just as you think the band is starting to kick back in and starting it all over again. And when they do need to produce a solid crescendo, they do it perfectly. Oh, and 'High Voltage' is also pretty long, but out there Brian Johnson and his audience participation stunt are the primary focus. Out of the post-'79 material, the songs from Back In Black naturally suffer the most because of Brian's range problems, plus they butcher the ending to 'Hells Bells' because of the stupid need to have the obligatory guitar fireworks at the end of each tune (what's up with these pompous codas anyway? They all sound the same and if they ditched them out, they'd have space left for at least three or four more classic numbers. These guys oughta take lessons from the Ramones, methinks). But that's minor complaining anyway. 'Heatseeker' and 'That's The Way I Want My Rock'n'Roll' roar and tear like they never could on the too-smoothly-produced Blow Up Your Video, and they make all the right choices to play from Razor's Edge (except for 'Are You Ready' - I'd much rather hear 'If You Dare'). Oh, and in case you're not all that disposed to get the rip-off Who Made Who soundtrack, they also do perform the title track on here, quite superbly as usual. Other than that, the only surprise is the one-minute instrumental 'Bonny' (nurturing Brian's Geordie pride?), acting as the intro to 'Highway To Hell'. All in all, don't let the cynicism and scepticism hit you - yes, these guys aren't as fresh as they used to be, and yes, the lead singer's throat problems are obvious, and yes, there probably were few conceptual ideas here except to raise some extra cash, but geez, this is prime time live AC/DC with 'em guitars leaping out at ya at full speed! Over two hours of it! Your neighbours are gonna scream for mercy, but you WON'T GIVE 'EM NONE! AC/DC ROOOOLZ! And this album gets a 12 because if it got less, I wouldn't even want it to exist. And I do want it to exist.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1995Record rating = 6
Better stay away from too much blueswailing, boys.Best song: BURNIN' ALIVE
Track listing: 1) Hard As A Rock; 2) Cover You In Oil; 3) The Furor; 4) Boogie Man; 5) The Honey Roll; 6) Burnin' Alive; 7) Hail Caesar; 8) Love Bomb; 9) Caught With Your Pants Down; 10) Whiskey On The Rocks; 11) Ballbreaker.
Good old tradition: reach one of your peaks (Back In Black; Flick Of The Switch) and then immediately follow it with one of your lows (For Those About To S*** C***; Fly On The Wall). Not "immediately", actually: it took the guys a good five years to assemble enough material for an album - the longest break they ever had - and hey, whaddaya know? It still wasn't good enough. Maybe they should just have taken the entire decade off.The biggest question, of course, is "Where Have All The Fast Tunes Gone"? With their roughest, crudest album title yet, one could at least hope to get one's balls broken indeed, but most of the tunes here wouldn't even begin to accomplish this noble task. Slow, leaden, utterly predictable songs, with the Young brothers, for some reason, inclining more and more towards the direction of generic blues - there's at least one directly generic blues tune on the album ('Boogie Man') and a few more closely approaching the same. Whatever for? Last time the bros. gave us straightforward blues, it at least boasted a cool riff and head-ripping vocals from Mr Johnson ('Badlands'), but 'Boogie Man' is just a mockery. If I want generic blues, I have a million other sources to choose from; like I said, once AC/DC tackle the straightahead blues pattern, they're immediately reduced to faceless cogs in cogs. Production is also questionable. Rick Rubin replaces Bruce Fairbairn at the steering wheel, but the results are not positive - for the past ten years, AC/DC have constantly fluctuated from rough 'n' sharp to smooth 'n' blunt, with various degrees, and the degree of Ballbreaker lies somewhere in between Blow Up Your Video and For Those About, which is... well, decent, but not enough to rock your socks off. The guitars just don't grind the way they're supposed to, although I'm not sure if Rick himself is to blame - after all, the producer is the servant, so Angus and Malcolm must have been satisfied with the final result. But worse is the fact that there's one somewhat memorable guitar riff on the entire record. One. ONE! On the title track. And it's a stupid and simplistic riff at that, even simpler than the one used on 'Moneytalks'. But at least 'Moneytalks' didn't have an ecstatic Brian Johnson screaming 'BALL-BREAKYAAAAAAH!' at the top of his rotten lungs. Okay, enough nasty spooky talk. Much as I respect Mark Prindle's venomous take on this record, I have to admit that Ballbreaker ain't that bad, even if it is the second worst Brian Johnson-era AC/DC album (and no, I'm not afraid of AC/DC fans - from most of those that are worth being afraid of I'm protected by the sheer volume of the reviews; they just wouldn't be able to get at me!). What with all of its defects, there is at least one "streak" here that works nicely: they seem to have regained the taste for apocalyptic material, and while Ballbreaker often gets a bad rap for being unnecessarily offensive and raunchy, I think it's not the raunchiness but the "evilness" of the songs that should constitute the main point of attraction. AC/DC aren't usually harbingers of evil - good old rock'n'roll is their motto - but whenever they do choose the Satanic or the Hellish or the Evil-Of-Mankind subject, they usually excel at it because nobody can cook up a proper electric guitar thunderstorm as effectively as the Young brothers. Not even Black Sabbath could get that mad. So 'The Furor', mood-wise, may be just a recapitulation of 'The Razor's Edge', but it's got a different melody, and although it doesn't have an easily discernible riff (there's a complex picking technique at work instead), there's ominous atmosphere a-plenty, and even Brian's 'I'M THE FUROR, BABY!' works fine. Likewise, I can never for the life of me remember the guitar pattern of 'Hail Caesar', but it's a lot of mindless fun when Brian calls 'ALL HAIL CAESAR!' and the band answers 'HAIL! HAIL!'. But my favourite tune is 'Burnin' Alive', not as well written as the similar 'House Is On Fire' off Flick Of The Switch, but with a far better buildup and a far more dangerous whiff. Logically I realize that even on these three songs the band is coasting, but it's amazing that even when they're coasting, they can get along by the power of POWER alone. And even Johnson still got power, ragged and torn though it might be. Heck, I even like the title track. It's moronic and stupid but it actually took them more than one nanosecond to write. Check the friggin' structure one more time. Buildup, unpredictable chorus, everything that's expected. And I wouldn't be entirely honest with you if I didn't confess that even among the more boring songs, some actually get interesting towards the end: the maniacal crescendos to 'Honey Roll' and 'Caught With Your Pants Down', in particular. Funny thing, isn't it? With most other bands, it's the last minute of their worst material that's usually particularly intolerable, with AC/DC, you can at least hope for the thunder and lightning to catch up with you at the end. And still, Ballbreaker isn't interesting for more than at most half of its duration. When "the furor" isn't there, you get stuck with stupid filler like 'Love Bomb' or 'Whiskey On The Rocks'. Or equally stupid rewrites where they take the verse melody of 'Meanstreak' and tack it onto a painfully unexciting chorus - that's how you get 'Cover You In Oil', a song that's taken its place among the Top 10 Travesties in the AC/DC catalogue for me: you just do not take a potentially threatening, aggressive melody that all but predicts a classy chorus explosion and then follow it by a limp loud sequence of notes and a guy yelling 'cover you in oil, let me cover you in oil'. Upon release, the boys - if I'm not mistaken - announced that this would be a sort of "return to the roots" record, which is always a bit befuddling because I'm not really sure at what point AC/DC actually stepped away from their "roots". Possibly they thus meant that it would be more bluesy, meaning 'Boogie Man' in particular and the slowness of the songs in general. Or maybe that there would be more pub rock stuff like 'Whiskey On The Rocks'. In that case, AC/DC should better stay as far away from their roots as possible. Although it's fairly obvious why the album had such a great deal of support from the most seriously intellectually challenged section of the band's fanbase - Ballbreaker really targets the lowest common denominator, want it or not.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1997Record rating = 8
Cool pun, cool material, but it's definitely a "tribute" rather than a true boxset.Best song: mmm... so it is a boxset.
Track listing: CD I: 1) Live Wire; 2) Problem Child; 3) High Voltage; 4) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 5) Dog Eat Dog; 6) The Jack; 7) Whole Lotta Rosie; 8) Rocker;CD II: 1) Live Wire; 2) Shot Down In Flames; 3) Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be; 4) Sin City; 5) Walk All Over You; 6) Bad Boy Boogie; CD III: 1) The Jack; 2) Highway To Hell; 3) Girls Got Rhythm; 4) High Voltage; 5) Whole Lotta Rosie; 6) Rocker; 7) T.N.T.; 8) Let There Be Rock; CD IV: 1) Dirty Eyes; 2) Touch Too Much; 3) If You Want Blood (You Got It); 4) Back Seat Confidential; 5) Get It Hot; 6) Sin City; 7) She's Got Balls; 8) School Days; 9) It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock And Roll); 10) Ride On; CD V = Back In Black.
Well, AC/DC are people, rather than mindless copulation-hungry animals, after all, so an honest reminiscence like this, dedicated to the memory of Bon Scott, was never out of the question. In fact, one could actually ask why it took them so long - but then, boxsets were a relatively new thing in the mid-Nineties, and anything less than a boxset just wouldn't do, I guess.That said, there's still something strange about it. Normally, people put out boxsets for fans to get acquainted with previously unreleased outtakes - with good boxsets consisting of nothing but outtakes and bad, money-grubbin' boxes cruelly mixing 50% outtakes with 50% hits and classics. Yet in the case of AC/DC, it just seems that there were no outtakes! Out of five discs, the only one containing studio rarities is the fourth one, subtitled Volts, and even then we only, like, get two songs we never knew existed, and even out of these two, one - 'Dirty Eyes' - is nothing but an early (and, predictably, inferior, although listenable) version of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' with different lyrics. Granted, the other one, 'Back Seat Confidential', is a fine speedy rock'n'roller well in the vein of Powerage. But other than that, Volts consists of a) alternate takes of songs from Highway To Hell, which are presumably there to let us enjoy their slightly murkier and crunchier production than the one we witness on the final reel - oh come on, I'm not that impressed by the variation; b) a couple obscure live versions of classics like 'Sin City' and pseudo-classics like 'She's Got Balls'; c) original (!) versions of 'It's A Long Way To The Top' and 'Ride On' - naturally, they're there at the end of the disc because they're the perfect representations of a Classic Bon Scott Anthem; d) a few isolated bits of various interviews with Bon tacked to the end, including the story behind 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and suchlike. Uhh... that's it? Not that I really mind, of course. I mean, I like AC/DC and all, but I can find many a good alternative to hunting after a batch of outtakes that would in any case sound just like everything else they did back in the 70s. But it is weird, nevertheless. Do these guys release everything they write? Or does everything they don't release suck so bad they can't even bring themselves to let their fans take a sneak peek? There's a mystery question for you, which you'll probably find no difficulty in answering if you're a true rum-soaked fan, but if you do know the answer, don't tell me. I like me my mysteries. Anyhoo! The real meat of this package is, of course, not the feeble Volts collection, but the other three discs, all of them live. Disc # 1 is Live From The Atlantic Studios; as you can guess, it's a recording of a live 1977 radio show, with a small, intimate crowd, perfect sound quality, and a nice material selection. You get to hear 'Live Wire' and 'Dog Eat Dog', get a very long, very bluesy, very stupid (but at least leaving the hilarious 'tabooed' lyrics intact) version of 'The Jack', get practically no other lengthy jam-enhanced performances, and also get a little more acquainted with Scott's perverse sense of humour. Hey, some of the jokes are actually good! 'So you all live in New York City, right? So we got a song for ya called 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be'!' One song that always disappoints me when done live is 'Whole Lotta Rosie' - somehow Angus never really manages to truly recapture the primal fury of the original - but this version almost makes the grade. Almost. Then the second and third discs are basically the soundtrack to the Let There Be Rock movie. Never seen it as of now, but hearing it definitely ain't a bad thing. Those who fall somewhere in between "fan" and "casual admirer" will be interested in learning that it's the only officially available material from the Highway To Hell tour, recorded in Paris, and so featuring a good selection of songs from Scott's last album, including 'Highway To Hell' itself and even 'Girls Got Rhythm'! The tracklisting is actually comparable with If You Want Blood, with "secondary" Powerage numbers replaced by "secondary" HTH numbers, but it's longer, and thus, arguably better, especially if you like all the jamming. I wouldn't necessarily rate it higher, though. Thus, 'Bad Boy Boogie' is mostly longer due to a pompous solo intro by Angus and a very long chugga-chugga monotonous rhythm pattern from Malcolm (was Angus stripping during that one or what?). One truly ferocious performance on here, though, is 'Rocker'. Starting off as usual - the fastest AC/DC rocker ever - it soon sheds its have-fun-headbangin' spirit and becomes an evil lightspeed-gallopin' multi-headed monster of a hard rock jam, with Angus actually putting more pressure on his hands than he does on every live performance of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' I've ever seen. It's moments like these, the fourth and fifth minute of this performance, which I'd heartily recommend to every AC/DC scepticist who has the nerve to doubt that, at least for a few years, or at least for half an hour every time they gave a good show, they were unquestionably the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world. And that's the boxset for you, five discs in all. Wait a minute... five? Oh, yeah. I forgot. The fifth disc here is Back In Black. I guess it's just a symbolic gesture - a boxset functioning as a grand old tribute to their former vocalist can't do without the album that was originally intended as the tribute to their former vocalist. Besides, it's possible that if they didn't include that, Brian Johnson would get upset. After all, all the other members of the band (important ones, I mean, like Mr Young & Mr Young) are all there in spades, and Brian Johnson isn't. With Back In Black, he is. And if you're complaining about it cuz you already have your Back In Black and you don't want to pay extra for another copy, shame on you, wanker. Genuine fans don't really have money of their own. They're supposed to give everything away to the needy musicians, you ever heard of that? So I guess you get me; you won't find any revelations on here, and unless you're offered this lovin' memory for cheap (or you're in desperate need of a bottle opener, which I hear say comes as a lagniappe together with the set - hey, you do realize I don't really own the boxset in its original form, doncha?), don't bother. But on the other hand, more live AC/DC in their prime just can't hurt, and judging by stuff I hear and review, live AC/DC are practically always in their prime, even when their vocalist is spitting chewn up pieces of his own trachea in the faces of those in the front row. So it all comes down to the relation between you and your bucks in the end.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 2000Record rating = 8
Oooh, putting the juice back into the guitars? Sweet!Best song: STIFF UPPER LIP
Track listing: 1) Stiff Upper Lip; 2) Meltdown; 3) House Of Jazz; 4) Hold Me Back; 5) Safe In New York City; 6) Can't Stand Still; 7) Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll; 8) Satellite Blues; 9) Damned; 10) Come And Get It; 11) All Screwed Up; 12) Give It Up.
With all these long intervals and all this lack of hope caused by the sluggishness of Ballbreaker, I guess people were starting to wonder if we'd ever really hear from AC/DC at all again. But we did hear. And we heard, and we listened, and we decided that it was good. And we called it The Big Comeback.But in fact, AC/DC never had a 'comeback'. There was never any particularly long period during which AC/DC did nothing but hold their big balls. There were occasional lapses of inspiration and there were occasional leaps in energy level, so that, for instance, Flick Of The Switch and The Razor's Edge were slightly more than your average quality AC/DC album, whereas Fly On The Wall and, yes, Ballbreaker were slightly less than that. Now, on the threshold of the XXIst century, AC/DC decided to make exactly that - the "average quality AC/DC album". No highs, no lows, just one big ample proof that they're still there and the fans can still polish the flags. (Oops, sorry, sort of went into AC/DC talk here for a moment). It isn't very fresh, and it isn't very fast, and it doesn't have a tremendous lot of memorable riffs, but it's satisfying, gratifying, and freedomfrying all the way through. A particular bonus lies in that Brian Johnson went through throat surgery or something, and, for the first time in years, doesn't sound like he's got a shamefully unkept botanical garden feeding on his larynx. The days of 1980-83 are, of course, long gone by, yet at least we get to see a shadow of the past rather than a mockery of the past. And I may be wrong, but it certainly looks like they pulled a classy trick on us with that "atypical" opening to the album. As the title track innocently steps in, with no rhythm section and guitars that seem to be dangerously meandering and mucking around instead of kicking ass right away, Brian starts singing in a weird, extremely low, growly voice that certainly reminds you of Captain Beefheart or maybe even Tom Waits rather than what you're well used to. "Whoah", you think, "has the guy lost his upper range totally and completely and are they gonna switch to this 'dark blues' thing to accommodate his new singing style? Hmm, well, come to think of it, Brian Johnson could spend his later years impersonating a morose old black guy out of his wheelchair, and he'd be pretty convincing, too, but still, I wonder if it's a good thing..." And just as you're either ready to give up on the band, or to start 'opening your mind', WHAM! all of a sudden the rhythm section kicks in, Johnson's voice rears up skywards, and hoopla, it's the good old band knocking you off your chair. It's the only surprise on the record - after those initial twenty seconds of confusion, it never veers away from the trodden path - but AC/DC rarely offer more than one, or else, like Angus says, they may end up "experimenting right up their ass". But nobody really needs more when the songs are good. Like I said, in terms of epochal riffs there's not much to speak about; the main accent here is on being tight and jagged rather than being memorable. Even so, I still can't seem to get the riffs of 'Safe In New York City' or 'Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll' out of my head, and why should I? And oh yes, let's not forget to mention the production. The production is awesome. Absolutely awesome, the best since at least Flick Of The Switch. I can't say that it's particularly "raw", as on the 1977 album, but it really brings these guitars - and these vocals - right into your living room. In fact, I'm not exaggerating if I say that I've never yet heard Brian Johnson singing so close to me, because even Mutt Lange kept getting him away from my speakers, and since they started treating him with reverb, all hope of getting him close was lost. Now it's found again. Since it's so close, then, it's no wonder there's sort of a "party" atmosphere all around; in dire contrast to the constantly ominous pounding of Ballbreaker, Stiff Upper Lip is almost a happy album. Even songs with 'terrifying' titles like 'Meltdown' seem to hint that such a thing as a meltdown, be it in the figurative sense or not, ain't as monstrous as they paint it (doesn't that "man it's getting hot, hot, hot" refrain seem totally hilarious to you?), so what's to say of this long streak of frathouse anthems like 'Can't Stand Still', 'House Of Jazz', 'Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll' etc.? And yet the vocal melodies are so catchy and the overall sound is so groovy that I totally forgive them, even if I normally prefer my AC/DC with long sharp teeth instead of drunk grinning smiles. It's hard to talk about "outstanding" tracks here, but I'd say that yes, the title track, with its little trap at the beginning, certainly qualifies, not to mention it's a wonder how come they didn't think of such an obvious AC/DC-style thing as rhyming "stiff upper lip" with "shoot from the hip" - and goddammit, nobody in the whole wide world can spell "shoot" the way Mr Johnson does. (Wouldn't advise you to check the rest of the lyrics sheet, though; most of the lyrics are again credited to the Young brothers, and their command of the English language makes both Bon and Brian look like a collective John Milton in comparison). 'Safe In New York City' I loved upon first listen because of its amazing (in its simplicity) buildup, and ain't nobody but these guys can repeat 'I feel safe in New York City' eight times in a row and not only get away with it, but also, well, REALLY get away with it. And if you're aching for a solid wall-rattling anthem to vent all your frustration, well, 'Damned' gives you just the right opportunity; the sole carnivorous dark monster among all the booze-happy creatures, it's one of their most perfect piss-off declarations in years. I'd say the record becomes a bit draggy towards the end (the last three tracks are solid, but kinda smooth, nothing particularly attractive to hold on to), but pretty much every AC/DC record does. Heck, maybe if we play them from end to beginning we'd be stuck with the exact same feeling, who knows? Also, the album certainly suffers a bit from lack of speed - nothing on here is even as fast as 'Caught With Your Pants Down', let alone 'Fire Your Guns' - but, after all, they're old. Cut them some slack. Admit instead that they wondrously escaped the danger of collapsing into generic blues-rock, and yet managed to make their music significantly bluesier and rootsier without losing the knack for inspiring choruses and an occasionally amazing riff or two. And guess what, I never once had the feeling that they were ripping themselves off while listening - looks like there's no re-writes at all going on. Well, they did have five years to crosscheck all the new stuff against all the old one, but somehow I don't think AC/DC ever really make any 'crosschecking'. Well, okay, 'Hold Me Back' and 'Can't Stop Still' are more or less the same song, I'll admit that. Heck, they're, like, exactly the same song. But all the others are different. I swear.
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As everybody with at least a little bit of "The AC/DC Fan" within him knows, Geordie were Brian Johnson's first band. The name naturally depicts them as Northern Englanders, and so they are (Newcastle-upon-Tyne - one hell of a famous name for English rock'n'roll). Turns out they were a pretty good band, quite undeserving of the almost total oblivion that befell them since the Seventies (oh well, at least they share that oblivion with Budgie and a good heap of other excellent hard rock bands); I honestly should give them a page of their own, but I don't have all the records, and besides, I guess it'll do them more good if I put them here next to AC/DC rather than stick them somewhere way below where people will never find 'em. So off we go.
Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating = 11
Songwriting isn't everything, and these merry Scots are here to prove it.Best song: HOPE YOU LIKE IT
Track listing: 1) Keep On Rockin'; 2) Give You Till Monday; 3) Hope You Like It; 4) Don't Do That; 5) All Because Of You; 6) Old Time Rocker; 7) Oh Lord; 8) Natural Born Looser; 9) Strange Man; 10) Ain't It Just Like A Woman; 11) Geordie's Lost His Liggie; [BONUS TRACKS:] 12) Can You Do It; 13) Electric Lady; 14) Geordie Stomp; 15) Black Cat Woman.
A tremendously fun listen! And it turns out that Brian Johnson was not just a perfect replacement for Bon Scott, but a perfectly functionally agreeable replacement for Bon Scott - because Geordie in their prime were the perfect British (er, sorry, Geordie) equivalent for the Australian AC/DC. On quite a few tracks here, these guys, led by Johnson and audacious guitar master Vic Malcolm, sound exactly like the brothers Young team, down to the guitar tones and everything. (Eerie name links, too. Bon Scott? Vic Malcolm? Was there some fate-woven link between the two bands from the start?) Not to mention that their debut album is just as rough and uncompromised as the Australian's combo usual style; no sissiness or sentiments, just balls-to-the-wall reckless hard rock and a pounding, gritty drive that puts Aerosmith (who also issued their debut record that same year) to shame. It is indeed a wonder that both Geordie and AC/DC formed at more or less the same time - I can hardly think of any other similar "coincidence", unless, of course, this cockrocking style was universal at the time and I just don't know much about the genre.It would be easier, actually, to try and describe Hope You Like It in terms of the 'find ten differencies' game; there are some things that separate the band from AC/DC, for better or for worse, and once we've established that, the picture will be complete. First of all, the band is certainly lacking a little bit in instrumentation and inventiveness - Vic Malcolm, who also wrote most of the material, is good enough, but there are not too many memorable riffs on the record, and the solos are pretty generic as well. Second, at this point Brian Johnson's voice wasn't yet the "metallic monster scream" he would boast on Back In Black; for the fans this might be a disappointment, but for me it is a relief as I don't need to clear my throat while listening. Third and most important, there are a few deviations from the formula. The classic Seventies' hard rock sound, for instance, gives way to an exciting retro sound (with acoustic guitars!) on 'Old Time Rocker', which is a number I enjoy very much - it's a rare case indeed when generic Seventies' rockers combine that decade's grittiness and relentless fury with old-time rhythms and instrumentation. The attempt to imitate every single white Fifties' rocker at once - Elvis, Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins included - may seem obnoxious to some, cute to others, and hilarious to me. And it's immediately followed by 'Oh Lord' - yes, the title implicates a gospel number, and it is a gospel number. I tell you, if you're an AC/DC fan, you really need to hear Brian Johnson wail his way through the 'oh Lord, won't you give me your hand' lines with a brilliant imitation of soulful vocals. (Note: I am not positively sure it's really Brian Johnson on that track. The vocals are different. But then again, it does require a totally different approach to vocalizing, so count me obstructed on that one). The most amazing thing is, it almost works - it's a good song, it doesn't sound at all fake or corny! Nice organ in the background, excellent guitar solo... what else do you want? It's pretty generic, of course, without any exciting melodic inventions, and it's terribly at odds with the rest of the material, but apart from that, it's perfectly tolerable. What a bummer. And one more deviation is the funny 'Geordie's Lost His Liggie', a fast folkish stompie - a Scottish jig, in fact - that works out perfectly, with more amusing Johnson vocal twists (why couldn't he reproduce something like that in AC/DC? How refreshing that would be!). Everything else is standard; I won't go into details discussing the rockers on here, as they are all pretty nice. Not a lot of originality - but they are clever enough to mold the standard rock'n'roll cliches in unusual ways, and brawny enough to pack a ton of freshly reaped rock'n'roll drive into every performance. There's a thing or two to be said about subtlety: for instance, the ecstatic Zeppelin-ish twin attack (vocals & guitar at the same time) on 'Hope You Like It' is arrived at slowly, with gusto, and a classy build-up. So the song borrows quite a bit from Deep Purple's 'Black Night', but it's not like they're hiding it from you. In fact, that's what's immediately likeable about them - they don't pretend to be borrowing, they just steal directly, but only to say: "Okay, see, we stole this part, but we just thought it would kick as much ass as it used to, or even more, when we marry it to this little idea that we had..." ...and it works. Speaking of the lyrics, they - quite predictably - are the standard misogynistic tripe (but without any terribly deep offenses, after all, they're a pack of merry lads from old Scotland, aren't they?), or standard bloozy rock anthems, with no traces of real darkness or Satanism or anything. Actually, this is just a pure 'have-a-good-time' record, which also makes it different from AC/DC's formula: Geordie never fooled around with the obscene or the evil, which is all right by me. One of the real big influences has obviously been Slade: 'All Because Of You' is typical Noddy Holder-style material, a big, big, BIG, loud, loud, LOUD drunken brawl which is simply the aural equivalent of having one too many. As for differences in sound, well, there are some upbeat group harmonies and some wailing echoey guitar tones which aren't that easy to come by on an AC/DC record - these guys were obviously more willing to diversify their textures and sometimes even experiment, without falling flat on their faces. In short, with the addition of a few memorable riffs, Geordie's debut album would have easily served as a rational substitute for AC/DC's entire catalog. 'Nuff said. The CD release of the album also adds some bonus tracks, two of which overshadow almost everything on the album itself: the powerful, swinging anthem 'Geordie Stomp', which celebrates the band's macho charisma with some exciting ringing guitars and catchy harmonies, and the creepy 'Black Cat Woman' (again owing some elements to 'Black Night'), with the trademark Johnson falsetto firmly in place and groovy "evil laughs" all over the place.
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Year Of Release: 1974
Overall rating = 10
I'm not fooled by the name, but these artsy ambitions, hey, they kinda suck. Bring out the ale instead!Best song: GOIN' DOWN
Track listing: 1) Goin' Down; 2) House Of The Rising Sun; 3) So What; 4) Mercenary Man; 5) Ten Feet Tall; 6) Got To Know; 7) Little Boy; 8) Look At Me; [BONUS TRACKS:] 9) Treat Her Like A Lady; 10) Rockin' With The Boys Tonite; 11) Francis Was A Rocker.
Whee! Displaying artistic growth, are we? This is still 'Brian Johnson and the boys', in the sense that Brian is still a member of the band, but this here record sure doesn't sound at all like early, midperiod, late, or postmortem AC/DC. Even more importantly, albeit equivalently and fully interconvertibly, it doesn't sound like the previous album at all. And I'm not sure if it's a right choice for hardcore AC/DC fans if they want to learn more from their beloved vocalist's past. Come on, what Brian Johnson fan wouldn't be embarrassed by hearing his idol croon through a sappy soulful ballad entitled 'Treat Her Like A Lady', with lyrics like 'takes two special people to make each other cry'? Sure is a long way to 'she's using hear head again, I'm just givin' the dog a bone...', innit? NOT TO MENTION that he's trying to generate some kind of hoarse-dog-meets-horny-baboon croon that I've only heard previously in my worst nightmare and on Captain Beefheart's 'Happy Love Song', which, incidentally, is just about the very worst song to ever come out of the whole American artistic underground.Frankly speaking, though, 'Treat Her Like A Lady' is a bonus track here. The album itself is still heavy; in fact, it is even heavier than its predecessor, with loud, grumbly, fat guitars inclining more and more towards true heavy metal as Black Sabbath and the rest knew it in 1974. (Not that it reaches that level, no. It takes a good deal of pot, and these boys were definitely much more into regular alcoholic beverages). The songs are also getting longer and more complex - many of them are multi-part. Plus, the band is experimenting with power pop ('Little Boy') and traditional material ('House Of The Rising Sun'!!!!). What's most amazing, it mainly works - with a couple exceptions, I quite enjoy the record. They actually avoid most of the traps that innocent little bands usually crash into upon venturing into the Art Rock Jungle. The arrangements are clever and tasteful, with a decent, never overbearing splattering of special effects and synthesizers; the riffage is getting better and better, with a song sometimes packing up to three or four different riffs, and Johnson is further experimenting with his voice, using it in such different ways that it almost makes you wonder - did he get overpaid in AC/DC for giving up the right to exploit more than one style of singing on all of their output? Whatever. Even the cover of 'House Of The Risin' Sun' is cleverly transformed into an acceptable power ballad, with a good guitar solo and a passionate vocal renditions (I could certainly live without the corny 'mmm-mmm-mmm' evil vocals throughout - hey, I thought Gregorian chanting fell out of fashion with the Yardbirds' demise, no?). And the real highlights are powerful and intense, not at all goofy or parodic: 'Goin' Down', for instance, is a lost classic that's quite worthy of an established position in the 'hard rock classics' repertoire. Generic blues-rock, for sure, but with a lot of evil oompah in the chorus - those "whoa-whoa!"s are downright infectious. And the anti-war 'epic' 'Mercenary Man' is equally powerful, very Sabbath-y in places, with the riffage helping to ignore the obviously naive message. The straightforward use of the "bullets whistling overhead" touch is hardly welcome, though. Oh, and maybe it's just an illusion, but isn't that "broken" riff that drives the last, fastest part of the song eerily similar to the one that would drive forward AC/DC's 'Landslide' nearly a decade later? Talk about deja vus... There are tracks on here that go on for almost seven minutes, if you can believe it, and while I don't find this necessary at all, they never really occupy space just by inserting some stupid, predictable jamming. 'Ten Feet Tall', for instance, starts out with a bang, angrier and faster than anywhere else on here, then pauses in the middle and becomes an atmospheric wah-wah based 'creepshow', gradually rising to an operatic crescendo, before resolving itself with a flash back into the fast angry section. It's "art-hard", certainly, owing a lot to Deep Purple and Uriah Heep records of the last few years, but standing its own grounds because Johnson is just such a good vocalist, and Malcolm plays that six-string with so much gusto and feeling (and restraint where needed). 'Little Boy' is the big eyebrow-raising number here, as it's pure unadulterated slow-dance-pop, not unlike something ABBA could have penned, awash in "sissy" slide guitars and "cheesy" synthesizers. Heh heh, I would love to see this performed at an AC/DC concert and see the audience's reaction. "Who brought the tomatoes?" It's almost disturbingly catchy - I'd rather it wasn't, then I could lambast it to high heaven, but dammit, there's a funny and objectively laudable attempt at mainstream pop songwriting here, and mustn't we all be compassionate? And 'Look At Me' closes the album on another 'epic' note, this time incorporating elements of... eh... introspective balladeering. Not particularly well written, but still a lot of fun. What's up with all those gypsy motives? And the bonus tracks all have something fabulous about them (the extra half-star is added precisely for that reason): 'Treat Her Like A Lady' is just hilarious in its corniness, 'Rockin' With The Boys Tonite' is even more corny because it sounds like some Eighties lifeless MTV "rocker", but with enough catchiness to make it stick (stick where? Oh, wherever), 'Francis Was A Rocker' has funny lyrics and sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and 'Red Eyed Lady' is a country shuffle based on harmonica and what-not and if you don't sing along to the 'I'm a two time loser, two time loser' chorus when there's no one around to make you feel ashamed, you oughta feel ashamed. Anyway, it's all just a gross, corny, inessential, jacky mental house of a disordered mess, and that's why I end up liking it. Pick this up, whoever you are, then check your reactions. If you HATE this, rock and roll music is obviously not your cup of tea; go back to your Wagner or at least to your John Cage. If you LOVE this, you oughta have your head examined. But if you just find this a set of funny grooves and innocent experiments sometimes amounting to a solid album, well, not everything is lost.
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