23 November 2020-
Following the death of rhythm guitarist Malcom Young, health concerns of singer Brian Johnson and legal issues of drummer Phil Rudd, the future didn't look too bright for legendary rock and roll outfit AC/DC... until they defied the odds once again.
In the galaxy of active rock bands, AC/DC is very bloody close to the top — and getting closer by the minute: granted, you still have the Rolling Stones of this world, the Who (even though the current line-up isn’t quite what it used to be), the Eagles (same comment)… Then, right after that lot, you basically have AC/DC, along with comparatively seminal bands like Aerosmith, or (slightly) more youthful outfits like U2, Metallica or Guns N’ Roses. In short, AC/DC is slowly carving its place in rock and roll legend, and making that place grow with every passing year…
Following a series of proper tragedies, first with singer Brian Johnson losing (part of) his hearing, then drummer Phil Rudd getting into serious legal problems and, ultimately, with the passing of band co-founder and legendary rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, many could have assumed that this would be the end for AC/DC. And it was already enough for the band to never be forgotten: Back in black alone is responsible for everyone in the world being able to find Australia on the map… But, as with the passing of singer Bon Scott way back when, Angus Young and friends managed to beat every odd, and emerge from rock n’ roll ashes looking — and, more importantly, sounding — pretty much intact!
Power up, their just released 17th studio album, is an ode to classic rock if there ever was one. The riffs on there could have very well been written 20 years ago — and some of the songs are not recent, more on that later — or 20 years in the future — Angus’ guitar is that timeless… Lead single “Shot in the dark” is a perfect song for one: starting with the bluesiest intro since Muddy Waters (or very close to that) and morphing into a classic AC/DC thundering guitar riff, everything is said and done in just above 3 minutes. Nothing else needed, up to and including perfectly placed vocals and a spot on guitar solo…
The same could be said of virtually every one of the 12 tracks on this LP. “Kick you when you’re down” with its ridiculously infectious riff that would make the ZZ Top crew melt with envy; “Realize”, which provides one hell of an intro to this collection, with choral arrangements and booming sounds that would almost trick you into thinking you’re hearing the Aussie bunch live; “Money shot”, with its heavier mood and occasionally deep vocals for a change… Everything you want from a rock band of that stature is there — exactly there.
Indeed, the integrity of the AC/DC sound here has a lot to do with the fact that all tracks on Power up are co-credited to the late Malcolm Young (along with brother and unavoidable guitar hero Angus), as he’d had a hand in crafting each over the years. While that is a fitting tribute to a truly great musician, and ties these songs to the rest of the band’s incredible catalogue, it also arguably says something about its future: if AC/DC has to rely on older work to keep releasing new material, that may become an issue…
Then again, they beat worse odds before.