AC/DC – Rock Or Bust

AC:DC - Rock Or BustThe last year or so has been about everything but the music when it comes to AC/DC. Nothing they have chosen themselves, but things has gone pretty sour for the band lately. First the news of original rhythm guitarist and songwriter Malcolm Young’s wavering health reached us. At first the band and their management refused to go into detail when it came to Malcolm Young’s health issues, so I just figured that he had another set back when it comes to his reported alcoholism. Remember that he was replaced by brother Stevie Young on the Blow Up Your Video tour in 1988 due to his alcohol problems. To make matters worse, drummer Phil Rudd was creating headlines when he was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and for the attempt murder of two people. The latter charges has been dropped, but the drug charge is still in court. It’s not the first time Rudd has been arrested for drug possession. Back in 2010 his tour plans were threatened because of a possession of cannabis charge, but the case was later dropped. In all this mess AC/DC dropped the news that they were returning to the scene with a new album and that Malcolm Young would be part of it. It turned out, however, that he both was and wasn’t part of the album. The Young family dropped the bomb that Malcolm was suffering from dementia and that his state was pretty bad. Goodbye to ever playing with AC/DC again, then. Still, all the songs on this album were composed by Malcolm and Angus but Malcolm doesn’t play a note on it. Back in the band – now as a full-time member – is Stevie Young. Phil Rudd, however, did play on the album and his intentions are to tour with the band. Still, Rudd wasn’t present when the band shot the video for first single “Play Ball”. The drums in the video was played by one Bob Richards and don’t be surprised if Rudd is done with AC/DC when the tour starts. Press photos also shows AC/DC as a four piece leaving Rudd the odd man out. I’m not gonna hold my breath for him participating anyway. The last time AC/DC released an album was back in 2008 and the album was called Black Ice and it was a tremendous success. In a time and age when people are using Spotify and illegal downloads, AC/DC managed to sell 6 million copies of that record. They also refused to put it on iTunes and Spotify. That’s pretty fucking decent under the circumstances, if you ask me. If you want a AC/DC record, you have to buy the actual album and no bloody mp3’s, they reasoned. I give that a big round of applause.

But Black Ice was an uneven album. Not bad in the sense of bad songs, but the album had too many songs and it was too damn long. As a ten or eleven track album, that album could have been a true killer with the fillers removed. When AC/DC release a new album six years later we get eleven tracks and just around 35 minutes of playing time. Thank you very much for that.The first single and video “Play Ball” did bode very well for the coming album, in my opinion. It has the slight commercial catchiness that AC/DC singles usually have, think “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”, “Thunderstruck”, “Who Made Who”, “Heatseeker”, “Hard As A Rock”, that kind of catchiness. No, “play Ball” doesn’t sound like any of them, but it has the same vibe. A great song, in any case. The title track starts the album and to me, this is what classic AC/DC is all about. It kicks ass, it grooves and I can actually imagine Bon Scott singing this one. Hallelujah! I guess “Rock The Blues Away” will be a single in the near future. It has all the traditional AC/DC stomp with a catchy as hell melody and an almost poppy refrain. I truly love this! “Miss Adventure” has all the classic AC/DC ingredients, “Dogs Of War” is a brilliant rocker that sounds like it could have been an outtake from the Black Ice sessions, “Got Some Rock ‘n’ Roll Thunder” is made for the live scene with its thunderous stomp, addictive groove and killer melody and “Rock The House” rests heavily on some cool Led Zeppelin riffing while the song itself is a heavy blues rock tune. The last song on the record – “Emission Control” – is also one of my favourites. It’s a total AC/DC style blues rock stomper, but it has a bit of slick feel to it and I mean that in the best possible way. AC/DC will never be Def Leppard slick, but Mutt Lange made them sound somewhat more accessable and that vibe has been caught on this tune.

This album had me from hallo. I have been waiting for that AC/DC record that gets me going from the opening chord to the last fade and the last time that happened was back in 1983 and Flick Of The Switch, a totally underrated album in my book. Since then they have managed to release some all time lows (Fly On The Wall 1985 and Blow Up Your Video 1988) and one that sold shitloads of copies but was musically underwhelming (The Razor’s Edge, 1990 – Bruce Fairbairn (1949-1999) was perfect for Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, but for AC/DC and Kiss, not much, rest his soul) and when Phil Rudd returned after being replaced by Simon Wright and Chris Slade, the two first albums with Rudd back, Ballbreaker (1995) and Stiff Upper Lip (2000) were both good albums that set AC/DC back on track, but didn’t go all the way. With Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Velvet Revolver, Audioslave), AC/DC found a producer that could give them that ballsy groove and make an album that sounded both slick and raw at the same time. Unfortunately he couldn’t convince the guys to shorten the track list on Black Ice. But with Rock Or Bust, Brendan and AC/DC has made an album that has everything that I want in an AC/DC album. I like the thick production, it’s a bit less slick than on its predecessor and I like that the songs are pretty short and that they concentrate on kicking ass for 35 minutes instead of filling up the CD space just because they can. Also, I think that Brian Johnson sounds better than in many years. How does Stevie Young fit in then? Well, there’s not much to say about him – he does his job and he doesn’t move outside of the box at all. AC/DC wants the Malcolm sound, the fans craves that and Stevie’s job is to make that happen. Now matter what one might think, that is not an easy task, but Stevie has no problem at all doing it. I guess it’s in the Young family blood to play like that. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for another AC/DC release after this and if this is their swan song, then they can wave goodbye with heads held high. A worthy goodbye from one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands that has ever moved on the face of the earth. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first there’s a world tour coming up and God knows what comes up after that…

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Rock Or Bust
2. Play Ball
3. Rock The Blues Away
4. Miss Adventure
5. Dogs of War
6. Got Some Rock ‘n’ Roll Thunder
7. Hard Times
8. Baptism By Fire
9. Rock The House
10. Sweet Candy
11. Emission Control

4 comments on “AC/DC – Rock Or Bust

  1. No iTunes and Spotify? Cool! So AC/DC of them!!!

    Our ratings on this album weren’t too far off. I think I gave it a 7/10 on a 10 scale. I’m just glad for them. Malcolm, what he is going through, is probably the hardest illness I’ve witnessed in my life. It’s not only heartbreaking but it’s exhausting for the family members and caretakers. Every visit can just tear you apart…or it can be a good day. You never know, you know?

    Anyway, more onto the music. Nobody is more suited to the role than Stevie Young and I’m glad he’s there. As for Phil…he played great on this album as always, but he is replaceable. If anybody in AC/DC is replaceable right now, it’s Phil Rudd, and I think they’ll end up touring with the guy that’s in their music videos right now. We’ll see though.

    • Yeah, well, Rudd is replacable, but it strikes me just how they started to get it right again when he returned to the band in 1995. I mean, no shadow over Simon Wright or Chris Slade, both great drummers, but Phil Rudd got that… AC/DC groove. He really means a lot to the sound and groove of the band. If they’re gonna tour with another drummer, they need to find a Rudd-clone, someone that plays EXACTLY the same way as him.

      • Oh yeah, they have groove enough to sell. But it’s the…. eeeh… wrong groove. I think there’s a world of difference between Rudd and Wright / Slade.
        But I don’t think they’re bad, they’re just not Rudd.

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