With news of their comeback freshly inked, tragedy upon farce seemed to flood over Australian hard rock giants AC/DC. Rhythm guitarist and sonic general Malcolm Young was forced into the background with dementia, while drummer Phil Rudd’s ongoing court issues swiftly rippled across the world wide web.
AC/DC are, as ever, made of harder rock than most. Produced by Brendan O’Brien and made with Malcolm Young’s blessing, 15th (internationally released) studio album ‘Rock Or Bust’ is the return fans were pleading for: a bulging sack full of riffs and a huge, two-fingered salute to the perennial haters.
Opening with the title track, ‘Rock Or Bust’ continues the return to the band’s boogie roots that began with 2008’s ‘Black Ice’. Ironically, this is mainly the preserve of the beleaguered Phil Rudd – his patient yet groove-laden delivery sits right on the mark, aiming straight for the hips.
Angus Young is – as ever – on vintage form, with his school kid uniform charm dancing across each and every track. Sure, there’s only so much you can do with a 12 bar but, when you’ve perfected rock ‘n’ roll electricity decades before, a little repetition can sometimes be forgivable.
‘Play Ball’ is all guts and grimace, while ‘Miss Adventure’ is superbly dumb fun – another killer pun for AC/DC’s reputation as rock savants. ‘Dogs Of War’ is built to explode around stadiums, while the crisp riffing of ‘Baptism By Fire’ ranks among some of the crispest, more ferociously natural work the band has completed in decades.
Sure, it’s not all killer. ‘Rock The Blues Away’ strays into some rather lumpen, Americana-style territories, while ‘Emission Control’ is perhaps a pun too far, even by their own filthy standards. But still, this is AC/DC: an unstoppable volcanic force, a group that seems to weather every obstacle placed in its way. Play it ‘til yr ears bleed – it’s the way Malcolm would’ve wanted it.
Words: Robin Murray
- - -
- - -