Album review: AC/DC – Rock or Bust

For AC/DC Rock or Bust represents their biggest challenge since 1980s Back in Black, the first album the Australian hard rock band released following the death of singer Bon Scott.
Brian Johnson, left, and Angus Young during a concert in Zurich. Ennio Leanza / EPA
Brian Johnson, left, and Angus Young during a concert in Zurich. Ennio Leanza / EPA

Rock or Bust

AC/DC

Columbia

Three stars

It’s unusual for a band with four decades’ experience of troubling global charts to find themselves in the position of releasing a “difficult” 16th album. The “difficult” epithet tends to be set aside for bands who have reached stratospheric success with an unexpectedly successful debut, and have to attempt to retain the spotlight with number two. See The Strokes, Oasis or The Killers for “difficult” second albums.

For AC/DC, however, Rock or Bust represents their biggest challenge since 1980s Back in Black, the first album the Australian hard rock band released following the death of singer Bon Scott. This time round, rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young is missing from the cast list. The founder member’s retirement was announced earlier this year due to deteriorating health following his diagnosis with dementia.

The duelling guitars of Malcolm and his brother Angus had been a trademark of AC/DC’s sound since their 1975 debut, High Voltage, and subsequent rumours of the band’s demise were understandable, but as it turned out, greatly exaggerated. Where one Young fell, another stepped into the fray – the brothers’ nephew Stevie Young. New album Rock or Bust is the result.

Fans needn’t have worried too much that the band would be greatly affected by the familial handover. The band have resolutely stuck to the successful formula of short, sharp, rock ’n’ roll shocks – clocking in at under 35 minutes, the album is the band’s shortest to date; the usual puns and double entendres are there for all to see (Miss Adventure is not about a new Marvel super heroine, and despite Jones’s sideline presenting a car show on cable TV, Emission Control is not about catalytic converters), and AC/DC trademark competing guitar riffs are very much in evidence with the latest Young in situ.

In fact, the album sounds very much like a tribute to the AC/DC sound that is known and loved by fans the world over. It certainly isn’t setting any new boundaries – back in 1987 Rolling Stone complained in its review of Flick of the Switch that the band had released the same album nine times. Well, they’ve probably released it 16 times now. Luckily, it’s a very good album, and no one from AC/DC has ever claimed, to my knowledge, to be pushing at the boundaries of musical experimentation.

Straight up hard-rocking fun is what you expect when you buy an AC/DC album, and that’s what you get with Rock or Bust. Lead single Play Ball is probably the stand-out track, though the title track also harks back to the band at their finest, and there’s another nine of similar quality that will keep rockers headbanging quite happily.

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Published: December 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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