Sound — 8
It's been eight long years for AC/DC fans. Eight years of waiting, waiting for a new record from the aging rock'n'roll legends Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, and Brian Johnson. With the recent leak of the record, I was not disappointed. The band sound like they're trying again, instead of playing safe with a blues record like "Stiff Upper Lip". Although there are some flat out duds like "Smash n Grab", and "Decibel", this album absolutely floors you upon first listen. 01. The album kicks off with the anthemic "Rock n Roll Train", which opens with a signature AC/DC riff, and after a flam on the snare by Phil Rudd, all hell breaks loose. Pure rock. Things quiet down for a bit and give way to the tangled chordal riff of the verse, and Brian comes in. Then we literally sling shot back into the chorus, which is gang vocals galore, reminding you of something from the "For Those About to Rock" era. The solo is a bit weaker than usual, but the one bad part of this album as a whole is that there are no notable solos... they all sound like pre-solo licks. Listen to "Rising Power" from "Flick of the Switch", and you'll know what I mean. Anyway, after the solo on Mr. Train, we head back into the chorus, then into a bridge section after another verse, with a few little licks dubbed over top. Another chorus rides this one out. Great tune. 02. Skies on Fire is another standout track, opening with a simple drum beat and giving way to a damn twisty little riff, with some awesome vocals here from Brian, who pulls some pretty high notes out of his ass on this one and nails the chorus. 03. Wow! Well Done! Big Jack is next up, and it's a great tune. It opens with a short jingle on the guitars, then the rest of the band comes in, mowing you over with a wall of sound. Johnson sounds great on this one as well. Some great top string riffing underneath the chorus. Good Stuff. 04. Anything Goes is pretty... different to say the absolute least. It is somewhat reminiscent of Geordie's "Geordie Stomp". I was prepared for this one after all the pop song comments made about it in some of the earlier reviews, but it really isn't that bad. A good song, but just one of the few tastes of variety that one will get on this album. Hopefully this one grows on me. 05. Now, War Machine. I'm sure you've heard it, as it was the second single. It opens with some tight tom work by Rudd, and a steady, throbbing bassline by Cliff Williams. A signature AC/DC chord progression rips right through it, gaining momentum, until we finally launch into the verse. Great tune, but there are better on the album. 06. Smash n Grab is a bit more modern sounding, featuring some pretty strong backing vocals from Malcolm Young and Williams. The chorus is arguably the best part of the song. "Smash... Grab and take it..ahhhahahahahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Yeah, I exaggerated a bit on that last part. 07. Spoilin' For A Fight is a bit different as well, sounds like something you'd hear from The Tragically Hip, minus the annoying vocals and everything. Some awesome bluesy licks from Angus throughout. 08. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllsssss. This is one of the better songs on the album. We start off with some play between Ang and Mal, before Rudd comes in and we go a few bars without Mal, but he comes back in and we shoot into the chorus. Whheeeeellllllls. 09. Decibel is one of the fillers on the album. It sounds a lot like ZZ Top, just better and stuff. Not much notable about this one, a bluesy riff. The song should have been renamed "Jezebal" as pointed out in an earlier review of the album. 10. Stormy May Day is the best song on the album for me. It cuts itself away from usual AC/DC, and opens up with a few little arpeggios. Then, when you think you're listening to "This House is On Fire" #2, Angus delivers some great slide guitar which reminds you of Jimmy Page. The whole song has a Zep like feel to it, and the stomping chorus is no different. 11. We have another gem here in She Likes Rock n Roll. Opening with a riff somewhat reminiscent of "All Screwed Up" with a few nifty little bass fills popped in between. I was expecting more of an epic chorus, but the downright grooviness breaks up for it, with a DIFFERENT drum beat! Who would have thought?! 12. Next up is Money Made, another stroll into Led Zeppelin territory, a bass-driven boogie with an absolutely awesome verse. What a great song. I'm cranking this gem in the car. 13. Now, Rock n Roll Dream. This thing has been under a microscope, since the first reviews of the album back in mid-August. Why you ask? It's nearly a ballad! However, not a synth-laden sapfest like most would expect when they hear the word "ballad". It's pure rock. Don't freak out over this one, I really enjoyed it. It starts out a bit quieter, then explodes at the chorus "I could be in a rock n roll dream... " 14. Rocking All The Way starts with some blues of sorts, oh wait, the whole song is pure blues. Unlike the rest of the album. Reminds you of something that should have been in "Convoy". A very "trucker" song if you will. One to play on the road. some of the, if not the best solos on the album here. 15. The title track, while a great tune, is the most dissapointing song on the album for me. I was expecting something hard and heavy, with gang vocals and a blazing solo. Instead, we get a good blues tune. We start out with some finger picking by Angus, and the rest of the band come in a few measures after. It sounds a bit like "Meanstreak" from Blow Up Your Video. A few minor key changes here after the first chorus. An okay end to album. It makes you think it could have been more epic, because it could have. In terms of production, this album is ok. The drums and everything are way punchy and audible. Especially Cliff's bass. However, I don't like how O'Brien "thinned out" Brian's voice. But oh well, he's hitting his high notes without straining for the most part, so that makes up for it. Better solos could have made the album a great deal better, too.
Lyrics — 9
Now, the lyrics are just typical recent AC/DC, senseless gibberish with no relevance to anything, therefore, they're awesome. Brian's vocals here are arguably the best he's delivered since "Flick Of The Switch" way back in 1983. He seems more dynamic on this record, switching between registers and making good use of his naturally deep, gravelly voice. Great job here by Brian, and a (like usual) terrible but awesome job by Ang and Mal writing the lyrics.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is the most diverse they've ever done, and it will take a few listens to sink in for hardcore fans. However, it is arguably the best thing they've done since the 80's. Not much else to say other than that, it's a good collection of tunes. A good party album. There's songs for everybody on here. A great change of pace. Well done boys.