In a world of uncertainty, one of the few things you can count on is the release every few years of a new AC/DC album that will sound exactly like all of AC/DC’s previous albums.
That’s certainly true of Rock Or Bust, notwithstanding the fact that the LP came together against a difficult background, with rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young departing following a diagnosis of dementia. and drummer Phil Rudd arrested on suspicion of drugs possession and threatening to kill (the charges relating to murder were subsequently dropped).
Neither drama has impinged even slightly on the dynamics of the hard rock kingpins, who still count Malcolm’s younger brother Angus on lead guitar (and school boy attire) and Brian Johnson as rasping frontman. Rather, Rock Or Bust reprises all of AC/DC’s signature attributes: the riffs are crunching and cheerfully without subtly; at 70 Johnson continues to deliver single-entendre lyrics in a bluesy mewl.
You can get a sense of what the record is about from song titles such as ‘Emission Control’ and ‘Got Some Rock and Roll Thunder’. Wry understatement was never AC/DC’s strong point and four decades into their career, they remain cheerfully untroubled by doubt or, indeed, self-awareness. That’s as it should be: dunder-headed rock is a greatly undervalued genre – properly catchy lowest-denominator music is harder to make than you might think – and a discipline of which AC/DC remain past masters. Rock Or Bust is brash and silly, electrified by its own ridiculousness. The cliches are laid on with a shovel – but, considering these are stereotypes largely created by AC/DC in the first place, what’s wrong with that?
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