What was the first AC/DC song you ever heard? After all, they are such a mammoth that basically everybody will have an answer for that.
To me, it was “Moneytalks” from Bruce Fairbairn produced “The Razors Edge“ (1990). This was the era when Ogiers were still mere Trolls and Hobgoblins and Rock Giants walked the earth with thunderous steps. Alice Cooper, Guns ‘n Roses… Bloody HUGE bands all of them and among there was AC/DC as well. They topped the local chart here with that album before mentioned and my ‘not very hairy yet’ ears caught the somewhat unstoppable Rock groove of “Moneytalks” broadcast from somewhere; Radio, or chart shows on the TV. Some of those post-medieval witcheries only really old (and slightly demented) remember these days (as those fully demented, do not remember shit). That tune got me lured into their magic and “The Razors Edge” was soon followed by albums like “Blow Up Your Video” (1988) and “Back in Black” (1980), all hauled here under a tree stump in the sunlight challenged Hobgoblin Marshes.
From there on, AC/DC have always been with me. Always. Even after I was initiated to the darkness of Extreme Metal, they were still there. I Would listen to Emperor first and AC/DC after them. When I got bored with Extreme Metal and went following Garage Rock and more progressive musical paths, they were there. As important as ever. There’s something timeless about AC/DC and their tunes, just like a great well deserved beer, they always do the trick.
Also, a quite notable fact is that in the past 30 years of my fandom, AC/DC have released only five albums after “The Razors Edge”! So, naturally, when they put a new one out I wanted to write about it. Especially, when The Great Mackintosh gently nudged me towards the idea (cheers mate!).
Let’s get started then:
In the era that preceded “Power Up,” the subject of this review, were probably the most difficult times AC/DC had ever faced in their careers. Issues with people leaving, getting arrested, getting replaced, dying, breaking a leg (actually breaking a leg, not “breaking a leg” in the theatrical sense) and singing from a damn throne pulled out from Giger’s warehouse are all so well documented that if somebody wants to read about that, the internet will serve them more than well. All we are about to say here is: It sure was tumultuous. With a capital T! TumulTuous!!
Putting an album out after such a roller coaster ride might not leave the expectations for the quality of new music very high for the fans. Well, this was the case with me personally, at least. Yet, off I went to hear what one of my longest worshiped bands was up to this time. And damn if it was the best thing ever I did in this rather rotted year of 2020!
You all know what AC/DC sound like, so I will not waste any of our time explaining the electrifying sweetness of those Marshall amped power chords and repertoire of drum beats matching Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger“ in variety. No. This is as AC/DC as AC/DC has always been. Simply put, effective high voltage Rock and Roll of the most enjoyable kind!
Maybe it is due to their hardships almost sinking the ship, but the band performing on “Power Up” (Brian Johnson, Angus Young, Stevie Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd) have unleashed together the most focused, the most detailed and the most enjoyable album in the whole time I have been a fan of the band! Whereas every album after “The Razors Edge” has been good, but not “Highway to Hell,” if you know what I mean, this is no longer the case. “Power Up” sees the band updated to their 6th decade (!!) in action. The Brendan O’Brien production on it can only be described as flawless. Pure ear candy, but even despite the minor update in sonics, AC/DC sounds like no other band in the world.
The material is easy going, yet ballsy and does not sound the least bit tired. There’s a fire here and it is used to a maximum blow torch effect. Power chord sniperism, if you will. Every single bit on the album is in the right place, thoroughly thought out and sounds maybe like the most melodic they have done since the early days with Bon Scott. Just take “Through the Mists of Time” for instance. Almost Nazareth like in it’s approach, it may be a bit of an eyebrow raiser for AC/DC, but after a spin or two, it is a surefire hit, 100%. “Kick You When You’re Down” is another spot on perfect tune, with a great hook, constant drive and great vocals. And the hits keep on coming as the album goes on from here. The bass guitar of Cliff Williams is appreciated maybe just a little bit more in the production than in the past, and it adds to the overall balance of the band.
So, to cut a long story short: “Power Up“ is an AC/DC album that has all it takes to actually surprise you! And therefore, it is not overshadowed in any way by their impressive past glories, but stands on its own two feet, without any apologies whatsoever.
Having the band to fall into oblivion after the recent hardships, would sure have been a nightmare scenario for Angus Young, especially. Without a doubt, he did not want to go down as a tired ‘has been‘. As a somebody who retired as the band could no longer cut it. I could almost bet money on the fact that it was ‘his’ determination to raise the band back to the top that made this album what it is. “Power up” is very much a well thought out effort, with only killer material contained within, the furthest thing from cranking out some half-arsed imitation of the standard Rock ‘n Roll formula. Every musician on the album plays and sings as revitalized, as for a while they must have been certain that they could never do their thing again. Now, when being given a new chance, they utilize it to the fullest and give the world without a shadow of a doubt the best old school Rock ‘n Roll album you are going to hear this year.
Who would have guessed, you know? Not me, I must admit. And while I’m writing the conclusion to this review, I can only imagine Angus sitting on his porch, smoking a fag and smiling his “I know something you don’t” kind of a smile and thinking to himself: “We sure did show them how it’s done.”
For me this is a very heart warming image, contributing a lot to the fact that there is quite nothing like the will-power of a determined person, when they decided to wield it.
Rating – 5/5