AC/DC: Power Up review – Same sound, same songs, but what rock songs they are
Let There Be Rock, Highway to Hell, Blow Up Your Video, Ballbreaker, Rock or Bust – there’s a thread running through the back catalogue of Australian hard rock band AC/DC and you can be assured it isn’t one of delicacy. You know exactly what you’re going to get: no deviation from and no fine-tuning of the blueprint the band has set up from their 1975 debut, High Voltage.
Such compliance to their creative output might seem out of step with today’s continuous tinkering with form and cross-pollination of genre, but AC/DC are not for turning. Any band that calls an album For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) simply don’t care whether or not you think they should experiment (cue howls of derisive laughter, Bruce).
And why should they care anyway? Having sold more than 200 million records worldwide since their formation in 1973, they know what the fanbase want and need, and deliver accordingly.
Maintaining such an inflexible ethos, however, has come at a dear price. Across the decades, band members have died (lead singer Bon Scott from acute alcohol poisoning in 1980 and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young from dementia in 2017), been arrested (drummer Phil Rudd for possession of drugs), and forced, perhaps, to perform on stage dressed as a schoolboy (the stage clothes of 65-year-old guitarist Angus Young are modelled on the uniform he wore at his Sydney high school). Factor in, also, multiple line-up changes and several career stops and starts and you have a rock band with a fractious history and no small number of personal experiences to draw upon for material.
Not that you’d glean anything as specific as personal experiences here; if you want those, fair and gentle people, make your way to the bar frequented by confessional songwriters. Rather, the new album features a dozen songs co-written years ago by the Young brothers and retrieved from the band’s vaults. In other words – big surprise – the songs and sounds remain the same.
Still, what rock songs they are. Embedded within are the plain, simple yet wholly effective three chords that have been a constituent part of AC/DC for decades. The likes of Rejection, Shot in the Dark, Kick You When You’re Down, No Man’s Land and Money Shot (and the rest) are as basic as they come but the primordial necessity of archetypal guitar riffs and their supplementary guitar solos reign supreme.
As always, there will be time enough to embrace the new and face the strange. For now, we’re shoving our fingers straight into the grid.