For many fans of classic rock, it’s just enough that AC/DC is back. That they are back and sounding better than they have at any time in the 21st Century just makes it that much better.
With last week’s release of Power Up, their 17th internationally-released album, the band proves it can live beyond illness, jail, and, interestingly enough, even death.
Four years ago, the potential of another AC/DC album seemed slim. Rhythm guitarist and founding member, Malcolm Young, retired from the band in 2014 as he battled dementia; Young passed away in November of 2017 at the age of 64. Brian Johnson, the band’s lead singer, left the band before the end of the 2014 tour after he began suffering from hearing loss. Drummer Phil Rudd was forced to leave the band when he was placed on house arrest after having been convicted of threatening to kill someone and possession of methamphetamine and cannabis. Finally, the band’s bassist, Cliff Williams, a member of the band since 1977, announced his retirement at the end of the tour in 2016.
At that time, AC/DC was left with two members, founding lead guitarist, Angus Young, and Stevie Young, the Young brothers’ nephew, who had replaced his uncle, Malcolm, as the band’s bassist.
In 2016, after having performed the rescheduled final ten dates of the Rock or Bust tour with Guns n Roses front man, Axl Rose, the future of AC/DC was anything but certain. In fact, fans had to wonder if the band had any future at all.
Then, in 2018, rumors started circulating that the band members were in Vancouver, the city in which they had recorded their three previous albums. Fans listened to the chatter for a couple of years before any real confirmation could be had. Then, in late September the band’s website started seeing small signs of activity. On October 7, the album’s first single, “Shot in the Dark,” was released and the band announced there was going to be a new album, which would be titled Power Up.
And now we have it, and it was definitely worth the wait. Possibly the best collection of songs the band has released since 1990’s The Razor’s Edge, Power Up not only gives fans some excellent doses of that classic AC/DC sound but also some new sounds as well.
I recall an interview with Tom Petty in which he said that part of the process of getting started making a new album was for the band to just get together and listen to a lot of rock and roll to see what inspired them or even what sounds they might want to borrow.
I don’t know if this is any way a part of how AC/DC goes about making a record, but having listened to this one for a few days it wouldn’t surprise me.
I also recall an interview with Angus where the interviewer pointed out that one complaint about AC/DC was that the band had made the same album 14 times. Angus corrected the interviewer, saying they had made the same album 15 times.
AC/DC fans had no problem with that. The band had found their sound early on, and its worldwide legion of fervent fans were just fine to have them stick with it. Those fans, however, won’t be disappointed to hear those staple sounds intermingled with things that are reminiscent of other bands from the rock and roll realms.
I don’t know if AC/DC takes a page from the same book that Tom and his Heartbreakers did when getting into making an album, but there’s no denying that some of the sounds here are similar to some of those produced by other bands.
Both “Shot in the Dark” and “No Man’s Land” feel like Nazareth in parts, while “Realize,” the album’s opening track, and second single, gives you the impression that Cinderella’s Tom Keifer might break in with the chorus from that band’s greatest song, “Bad Seamstress Blues (Comin’ Apart at the Seams).”
Possibly the most interesting track when it comes to thoughts of another band doing it has to be “Money Shot.” It’s not immediately evident, but I swear that if you think about it when you listen to it, this could be a Stones’ song. Imagine Mick instead of Brian, Keith instead of Angus, and Charlie instead of Phil, and it’s no stretch at all to see the Stones doing this number.
Don’t get me wrong, though, there is no denying that this is a classic AC/DC album, and while not all the players are the same, all of the songs were written by the same two men who brought you all those previous classics, Angus and Malcolm Young. Yes, Malcolm is gone, but he and Angus had all these tracks in the hopper for Angus to draw upon when it came time to head into the studio. Malcolm may not be here, but that doesn’t mean that Malcolm is gone.
I like to include four tracks in these posts, and I’ve chosen to use the last slot this time on the track “Kick You When You’re Down.” It’s not the best song on the album, but it has my favorite riff, and that’s something worth sharing when the band that brought the album to you is AC/DC and the guitarists who crafted the songs are the Young brothers.
And while “Kick…” has my favorite riff, this is an album full of great songs with great riffs. Working with producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Chili Peppers, Springsteen, and various other notables), who produced their last two albums, the band has made a new standard for what can be expected from an AC/DC, and it’s not only great to hear a great band back to doing what they do so well, it’s also great to see them live through and persevere through the hardships of life. These men and their music are old friends, and it’s always a fine thing to see old friends come back out on top after trying and devastating times.
Hope you enjoy these tunes as much as I have.
Be well, friends. I’ll see you back here sometime soon.