AC/DC's Shot In The Dark: the first reaction

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(Image credit: AC/DC YouTube)

It's finally here.

A lot has happened since the release of Rock Or Bust in 2014. The sad departure of Malcolm Young. Beano-gate. Axl-gate. 2020. But now there's a new AC/DC single and, for a brief moment, all is well in the world. 

It's the first song we've heard from the Angus/Brian/Cliff/Phil/Stevie version of the band, and if you expected AC/DC to jettison the sound that got them here and depart in radical new directions, you're going to be very, very disappointed. 

Every inch of Shot In The Dark sounds just like AC/DC. Which is just as it should be. It's difficult to describe the song without using the word 'trademark', because, well, you'll see. 

It features a trademark Angus Young riff, a casual, almost throwaway affair that introduces the rest of the band, who immediately thump into a rock-solid groove. It's almost comical how quickly this band are able to slot into gear.

It features a trademark, shedded-larynx vocal from Brian Johnson – clearly none the worse for wear – with those trademark brilliant/dumb rhymes running hot: "A shot in the dark", he explains, "beats a walk in the park".

There's those gang vocals, which sound even gang-ier than usual. There's Cliff Williams, keeping it so-so-simple and holding down the bottom end the way that only Cliff Williams does. And then – perhaps most of all – there's Phil Rudd. With all due respect to Chris Slade and Simon Wright, no one propels AC/DC quite like Rudd does, able to play with metronomic, machine-drilled restraint in a way that sounds both relaxed and urgent. In an era when rock bands resolutely fail to swing, AC/DC somehow do whenever Rudd's on board.

It sounds like a song hand-crafted for huge crowds in vast stadiums: three minutes and five second of pure, exultant, live-wire boogie. Three minutes and five seconds of irresistible groove. Three minutes and five seconds of business as usual.      

Whether Shot In The Dark is a harbinger of a decent album or a great one remains to be seen. For a long time, AC/DC have made the former, with a couple of killer singles front-loaded onto albums that are less threatening overall. But it's a helluva start. 

It's so good to have them back. Bring on Power Up.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.