Rock or Bust
Length: 35 minutes
Like it or leave it. This is an engaging, playful return to form for those Aussie Rock legends.
AC/DC is a band defined by two distinct periods of development, before their 1980 watershed album ‘Back in Black’ and after. Once you’ve released what would become the second best-selling WORLDWIDE record of ALL-TIME it makes it kinda hard to follow it up without disappointing someone. Their solution, just keep making the same record over and over again.
And that’s no joke, very little of what AC/DC has released since ‘Back in Black’ has pushed any boundaries or broke any new ground. With varied success they’ve survived three decades using this well tread formula of friendly Bluesy Hard Rock riffage. If it ain’t broke…
The problem? Their 1970s material with the late Bon Scott on vocals was also full of great, party hard rock. And it had something most everything since the 80s didn’t, variety. Before hitting it worldwide big, these five guys from Great Britain living in Australia were able to experiment and play around.
Now for 2014, forty years after their formation, AC/DC have released an album attempting to recapture some of that 70s era festiveness and fun. ‘Rock or Bust’ doesn’t always succeed, and gets bogged down by a few duds. But, at its best this collection of Classic Hard Rock absolutely kills it. The best thing they’ve done in over twenty years.
Many contemporary versions of 70s/80s Rock Gods end up sounding like old guys playing young guy music, full of unintended lament and self-parody (see VAN HALEN). Somehow, these 50/60-year-olds have manage to release a collection of youthful songs while still sounding young.
The difference? Approach. AC/DC has always gifted their music as a celebration of youth and life. Never weighed down by maturity or a social conscience. Their 80s/90s material may have gotten edgier in response to the success of the defiantly darker ‘Back in Black’ but it could never be called depressing, nor responsible. “Act the age you want to be.” And these guys are still acting like the more experienced teenaged rock ‘n’ rollers they are.
Plenty of will-be classics starting with ‘Fly On the Wall’-esque opener “Rock of Bust” and its short/sweet Young riff, the proper swagger of “Rock the Blues Away” with one helluva ear-worm chorus, the stripper club pulse of “Dogs of War”, 70s era bass-fest “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” shows off a different side of Brian Johnson–singing;), the off-beat blues rap “Rock the House” and its trademark AC/DC chant, and the spirited “Whole Lotta Rosie”-successor “Sweet Candy”. Holy crap, variety!
Even the less divine tracks blister with solid guitars courtesy of stalwart Angus Young and new-guy nephew Stevie Young, replacing the retiring Malcolm. Cliff Williams offers up a dominating Bass show and rock cliché skinsman Phil Rudd provides steady rhythm –What do you call a drummer in a three-piece suit? Having spent the 80s gargling with sand, Brian Johnson’s voice was sufficiently destroyed by 1990’s ‘The Razor’s Edge’. Fortunately, he isn’t any worse off now, twenty plus years on. You may not understanding all he’s “singing”–but with lyrical content like this you ain’t missing much.
AC/DC is what they are and what they’ve always been. If you don’t like their 70s, 80s, or beyond stuff this 2014 album isn’t gonna change your mind one bit. But for those who appreciate their party-hard Blues ‘Rock or Bust’ marks another, memorable collection of classic AC/DC Rock songs. At 35 minutes, these 11 tracks give just enough to leave us wanting more. Easily recommended.