Album Review: AC/DC, “Rock Or Bust”
Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: December 2nd, 2014, via Columbia
Veteran classic rockers, AC/DC, have recently released their first original album in six years! Rock Or Bust is their follow up to 2008’s Black Ice. Since then, the band has toured as well as released two greatest hits collections, one of which was the sound track for the second Iron Man film, and a live album. It goes without saying AC/DC have delivered a solid album, but how does it measure up to their legacy of classic material? Read on to find out!
In their near forty year career, consisting of sixteen previous albums, this is the first recording not to feature Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar. Sadly, Malcolm has been battling dementia, which forced him to retire from the band earlier this year. His nephew, Stevie Young has filled in for his uncle on both the album and for their unannounced, but bound to happen, upcoming tour. Stevie has toured with the band in the late 80’s when Malcolm took a short break due to his alcoholism. Between Malcolm’s ailing health and drummer Phil Rudd’s hijinks of drug possession and, the now dropped charges of, procuring a hit man, you’d think the band would take a break, but AC/DC has yet to waver. Lead guitarist, Angus Young, and vocalists, Brian Johnson, have stated that Rudd’s actions will not affect the band’s future, and if they have to, they will fire him. Despite all these troubles surrounding two of the five members, AC/DC have recorded a hard hitting album, with their signature, classic rock tone. Angus described the record as “do or die, go for broke. It was always probably the AC/DC approach. I might not be here tomorrow — play great now.”
The album itself kicks off at top speed with the title track, “Rock Or Bust”, followed by the first single, “Play Ball”. Both songs capture a primal energy, featuring what one would expect from AC/DC: loud chords, intense guitar solos, and raunchy, powerful vocals. It’s a miracle Johnson’s vocal chords are still intact. These two songs, along with “Miss Adventure”, “Baptism” and “Emission Control”, were my favorites to listen to. Although similar to their previous efforts, these four songs seemed the most fresh and ambitious of the lot. “Rock Or Bust” and “Play Ball” are both straight ahead rockers, which give the album a strong sense of momentum, as well as a hard hitting edge. “Miss Adventure” continues this trend, with an awesome, reoccurring riff stringing the song together, and backing vocals similar to their classic song “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. “Baptism” seems to be straight out of the 1970’s: it’s bluesy, upbeat, bouncy, and rather danceable. The Angus’ lead riff is perfectly paired with Stevie’s rhythmic parts as the bass and drums drive the song forward. “Emission Control” looks to end the album with a slower, but more powerful feel. It takes a bluesy, bopping hint from “Baptism”, but at a slower, groovier speed. The song’s riff and solo ends Rock Or Bust with a longer for more tracks like this.
I was thoroughly impressed by the five songs described in the previous paragraph. The other six songs certainly were not bad, but they were not at the same level as I would have hoped from such a strong standing band like AC/DC. Many of these songs lacked the energy which was so abundant in the better five. Not only that, but they did not take any risks with the composition and recording of these songs. Like I have already mentioned, AC/DC have a very large, and more importantly, impressive legacy of music dating back to 1976. A challenge many bands face throughout their career is surviving just that long while remaining relevant in both a musical and commercial way. AC/DC has done both to great success, but they have reached a point in their career where they no longer need to work hard to achieve either of those, which makes it easier (or harder, depending on who you are) to be innovative. There are a lot of filler songs on the album. They rely on old formulas from the band, but do not make as much of an impact which other songs following the same formula have.
All in all, Rock Or Bust is a solid classic rock album. Despite being unadventurous for many songs, they stick to a structure and sound which was, and still is, the foundation of their enormous fan base. AC/DC is one of the most well-known, most successful, and enduring acts out there, and that is solely based on their own pioneering sound, and their ability to perform it live, with style. But when they really drive the energy into their tunes, as heard in “Baptism”, or “Play Ball”, along with the others discussed, they demonstrate that after so long and all they have been through; death, sickness, substance abuse, and more, that AC/DC is still deserving of all the hoopla they receive. Although it may not all be the freshest material, I guarantee any AC/DC fan will love the album, and for their more casual audience, Rock Or Bust is certainly worth a listen to. Most importantly, Malcolm Young approved of the album. In a recent press release, Angus told reporters that his brother had heard Rock Or Bust, and that “He founded the band… how the guitars sound. It’s his baby, and he liked it, yes”. I feel at this point in their lives, that’s all that really matters, making music which Malcolm would be proud of.
1: Rock Or Bust
2: Play Ball
3: Rock The Blues Away
4: Miss Adventure
5: Dogs Of War
6: Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
7: Hard Times
9: Rock The House
10: Sweet Candy
11: Emission Control