Hands up anyone who is expecting Power Up to include rap or electronica influences. No takers? No surprise. It’s not what this band do. What they do – and with remarkable consistency – is deliver high-energy, groove-saturated music that swings. And none of us would have it any other way.
So what have we here? Cliff Williams has put his retirement on hold and Phil Rudd has swept aside his problems in order for the two of them to reunite the best rhythm section in rock’n’roll.
No disrespect to Axl Rose, but without Brian Johnson this could never truly be AC/DC, and thankfully he’s back where he belongs and his voice is revved up. Stevie Young has slipped smoothly into his uncle Malcolm’s role. And then there’s Angus. The enduring guitar master, the only ever-present member, the glue binding it all together.
Of course, none of this would matter if the songs were sub-standard. But as soon as Realize cuts loose with the unmistakable AC/DC roar, you know this is gonna be a killer album. That track sashays into the blues-tinged and slow-grinding Rejection, and by now you can neither stop shaking your head nor tapping your foot.
And so it goes on. The strut of Shot In The Dark, with those gang vocals that are so much a part of the ’DC style. The cascading melodic malevolence of Through The Mists Of Time and Witch’s Spell. And while Demon Fire has a humorously priapic wink, No Man’s Land flashes dirty rhythms and a cutthroat mean streak. All dozen tracks are winners.
Every song is credited as having been co-written by Malcolm Young, because many of the riffs date back to sessions for 2008’s Black Ice album when he was still on board, but these are far from recycled rejects. In fact they’re inspirational.
If you want signposts from past AC/DC albums, then think Flick Of The Switch and For Those About To Rock. In other words, Power Up basks in the glory of the early Johnson era. And that, most certainly, will do.
The studio team of producer Brendan O’Brien and engineer Mike Fraser, who worked on both Black Ice and 2014’s Rock Or Bust, do an admirable, unfussy job capturing the band’s iconic sound. It’s alive and bursting, concussive yet clean. Should this prove to be AC/DC’s farewell album (and who knows?), they will have gone out at the top of their game.
If you’re not tingling after listening to Power Up, then maybe you should check out the latest rap or electronica releases, because rock’n’roll ain’t for you.
Brian Johnson and Angus Young tell the story of AC/DC's comeback in the new issue of Classic Rock, out now.