AC/DC

Power Up

Written by: AP on 28/12/2020 13:31:02

It was a big deal when AC/DC dropped their 15th studio album “Black Ice” in 2008, bringing eight years of waiting to an end and giving fans of the Aussie hard rock heroes touring to look forward to again. But the novelty of the band’s return wore off pretty quickly and, after releasing the tepid “Rock or Bust” six years later, the veterans honestly seemed ripe for retirement. This feeling was exacerbated when first, vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to withdraw from touring due to his deteriorating hearing, and soon after, bassist Cliff Williams indicated that he would be leaving AC/DC altogether. The end was nigh, and when the inevitable hiatus was officially announced in 2016, few were expecting the quintet to tour, let alone record music again. Yet here we are: in the space of two months earlier this year, the Sydney-born outfit both confirmed their reunion and dropped their 18th album “Power Up” without any of the usual build-up or fanfare.

But let’s be honest: AC/DC is not a band that needs the hype. After nearly five decades of putting out records, everyone knows what the next one is going to sound like for better or worse, and while the prospect is not disappointing per se, it is not exactly the event of the year either. Indeed, AC/DC is the epitome of a broken record at this point — and for that reason, no one in their right mind can actually claim to hate “Power Up”. Lead guitarist Angus Young still rips out simple yet effective riffs in droves, the rhythms laid down by drummer Phil Rudd remain custom designed to make bodies move, and Johnson’s glottal compression singing technique continues to yield powerful vocal hooks galore, to produce yet another purebred rock’n’roll album free of bulls**t and devoid of frills. It is not rocket science, but it does f**king rock. But just like my censoring swearwords, the music of AC/DC no longer simmers with sleaze like it used to. The band members have aged in tandem with their fans and transformed into a lukewarm, PG-13 version of themselves, meaning that the rebellious spirit of their ’70s and ‘80s heyday is nowhere to be felt in any of the 12 tracks that comprise this latest album.

Fortunately, there is value in the grownup version of AC/DC, too. Despite the lack of revelations, there are nonetheless a handful of worthwhile tracks on it that are certain to become live staples, among them the opener “Realize”, which has all the features of a classic AC/DC hit: groove, swagger, and a sharply rhymed chorus destined to resound across stadiums. The lead single “Shot in the Dark” follows a similar formula, and had it been released alongside famous tunes like “T.N.T.”, its expertly timed call-and-response in the chorus would likely have made serious waves as well. It is the one song here that actually manages to recall the carnal cajolery of AC/DC’s early works, and the fact that the chorus is so perfectly arranged renders it into a definitive standout moment. “Demon Fire” is striking as well, thanks to its deft usage of stop/start dynamics and a whisky-drenched, baritone style of singing that creates a cool, devious vibe around the song. And “Witch’s Spell” is sure to earn the approval of long-standing fans by virtue of the familiar effect used by Young for the main riff.

At the very least then, “Power Up” gives AC/DC a reason to hit the road, and their fans the chance to sing their hearts out and bang their heads into whiplash again. There is nothing new or inventive about the record — but who expected, or even wanted that? The album delivers solid and unpretentious, yet well-written rock’n’roll just like every other AC/DC album has done, which means that those of us who are impartial to the band will think it decent, if ultimately rather unimpressive, while those who continue to religiously salute AC/DC are likely to find it to be an excellent addition to the band’s extensive, never changing repertoire.

6

Download: Realize, Shot in the Dark, Witch’s Spell, Demon Fire
For the fans of: Airbourne, The Cult, Guns N’ Roses, Krokus
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.11.2020
Columbia Records / Sony Music Australia

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