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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

AC/DC - Rock or Bust Review

First and foremost, no pussy-footin' around on this one folks. Crank the volume up to an acceptable level, I suggest 11.

Secondly, and most importantly, if you want lyrics that will make you sit and ponder, go listen to Coldplay or any other band of that ilk.

AC/DC's 'Rock or Bust' appears in stores Dec 1 and 2 but the band have given fans a very special, an early, Christmas gift by allowing the whole album to be streamed in its entirety via Itunes, that glunky piece of software that causes more headaches than...well, than any other piece of software I've ever known.

Being an AC/DC nut, I managed to hear the full album before AC/DC launched the 'official stream'. Hey, that's what us Acca Dacca nuts live for.

The one thing, for me at least, that sticks out about AC/DC's new offering, is the vocals. Brian Johnson has been belting out songs for AC/DC since the early days of Back In Black - anyone who has tried to imitate 'BJ' will have found, like me, that it's just plain impossible to sound like him without sounding like Donald Duck.

Johnson, like a fine wine, improves with age - is it down to his actual vocals or the production and mix of the album? - Does anyone really care?

It's almost as if Johnson has been given a new lease of life. "Here's the Mic, just do what you do best."

... and he does.

We hear the standard AC/DC sound throughout with a few little surprises thrown in.

I remember, back in 79, when I read a review in Sounds for the Highway to Hell album, the headline read "AC/DC Discover Harmony" - if they did, indeed, discover it back in 79, Rock or Bust shows how they have perfected it.

Here's a breakdown of the album...along with my thoughts.

1."Rock or Bust" -  3:04
I was fortunate to be present at the video shoot for Rock or Bust back in October [back story] - my views on this ballbuster haven't changed. It's AC/DC rockin out with their cocks out, balls n' all. As title tracks go, it's on a level with 'For Those About To Rock' [minus the cannons]. Their previous title track, 'Black Ice' , didn't really cut it for me - the album was great, the title track didn't really tick all the boxes. 'Rock or Bust' ticks them all.

2."Play Ball"  - 2.47
Another that has been circulating for some time - the song is better than most think, again it's your typical AC/DC riff with some nice picks, nothing too complex, just simple rock n' roll. The accompanying video to 'Play Ball' could have been better. Memo to AC/DC and David Mallett - AC/DC's 6th man is the fan - always include the 6th man in any future videos.

3."Rock the Blues Away" - 3:24
The opening is.... um, fuck me, Georgia Satellites meets The Angels. The verse is the same, I mean exactly the same melody as 'Anything Goes' (Black Ice). The chorus will just grab you buy the Jaffa's, superb harmonies - it's akin to a Geordie chorus [Brian's former band] - The lead break from Angus builds up slowly with some fine rhythm playing from Stevie. This is a crowd pleaser and is, at present, my favourite from the album.

4. "Miss Adventure" - 2:57
Stevie and Cliff have voices! Nice little shout of "Miss Adventure" and "Na na's" thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure about this one yet, for me, at least, it sounds like something that could have come a year or so after they released Rock or Bust, you know, a track that never made the final album, similar to the way 'Down on the Borderline' never made it to the final cut of 'Blow Up Your Video'. I'm sure it will grow on may take some fertilizer though.

5. "Dogs of War" - 3:35
AC/DC fading in a song? Hmmm? Think 'War Machine' (Black Ice) "We be the dogs of war" (Soldier's of fortune") - It has one hell of a groove that will give most hardcore AC/DC fans callouses on their back foot  [left or right, depending how they have emulated Malcolm over the years] - Great harmonies once again, hard to believe that Malcolm is missing on this one - it has his rhythm written all over it. Take a bow Stevie!

6. "Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder" - 3.22
Typical Rudd beat, typical foot-stomping start, typical psychic presence of the Young family just knowing when and when not to hit those strings. AC/DC aren't just about music, they are about knowing when to give us those little pauses in between hitting those strings. Nice guitar work from Angus on this one - fades out too quickly - would have liked to have heard more Angus. If they play it live we probably will.

7. "Hard Times" - 2:44
This little baby is all about the chorus and harmonies. Stevie keeps things rolling in the style of Uncle Mal whilst Cliff's thumping bass holds everything together. It's refreshing to hear backing vocals over lead vocals - makes everything sound like a party.

8. - "Baptism by Fire" - 3:30
Oh baby! I would just love to have been in the studio when they knocked this one out. What fun, what movement (groove) -  it's a train that starts at high speed and keeps its momentum throughout it's 3.30 short journey - it's something you could imagine a younger band doing...but doing it poorly. AC/DC are the past (and present) masters of the locomotive groove. You jump on board the party train and just feel the motion of it all through every part of your body.

9. "Rock the House" - 2:42
A Zep type riff, a 'Faith No More' funky bass riff, a killer vocal, with the help of Cliff and Stevie's shout of "Rock the House". It's the shortest song on the album, not the strongest AC/DC track you will ever hear, not the most memorable either. Another one that will, undoubtedly grow on me over the coming months.

10. "Sweet Candy" - 3.09
Oh yeh, oh yeh... if track 9 [Zep and Faith No More] disappoints then Sweet Candy gives us the return of AC/DC. This could have been lifted straight from the 'Blow Up Your Video' sessions, only with better production, much better!

11. "Emission Control" - 3:41
Like "Rock the House"we have the funky bass riff. What sets this aside is the chorus and harmonies. Stevie brings in a voice to the harmonies that, for most hardcore fans, will be the only sign that Malcolm is missing from this album.

All in all it's an album that will delight the majority of AC/DC fans. Sure, there will be those who may even suggest that AC/DC should hang up their guitars, uniforms and cloth caps - those that suggest such sacrilege should be tried for treason.

AC/DC are, without doubt, the biggest rock act on the planet. They have a style and, for the most part, they have stuck to that tried and tested formula throughout Rock Or Bust.

If you enjoyed Black Ice, you'll enjoy Rock Or Bust. If you compare it with Back In Black or the phenomenal 'Powerage' then it will disappoint.

Never, under any circumstances, compare one AC/DC album with another... just enjoy each one individually.

To stream the album go to Itunes here.

Liverpool and Scottish legend Bill Shankly once said, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."

Same can be said for AC/DC

Bob Fiddaman.