AC/DC - Rock or Bust

AC/DC Rock or Bust cover
Rock or Bust
AC/DC’s “Rock ‘N Roll Train” seem to have slowed down considerably over the past two decades. Their studio and live output has been more spatial, than the two decades that preceded them, but at least they have been able to keep the quality bar quite high, with both their most recent post millennial releases (well “Stiff Upper Lip”) inclusive – (it came out on year zero of the new millennium) being both commercial and critical success.
However the fact that the band had to say goodbye to their key members and one of the main composers, Malcolm Young (brother of Angus) who served since their foundation as their rhythm guitarist and was an anchor for the overall sound and style of the band was a big “hit”. Nephew Stevie Young who in the past had filled in for his uncle, during a tour and has generally been close to the band, has stepped up to the plate and delivered playing wise, but “Rock or Bust” seems to suffer a bit, when it comes to inspiration, with most ideas, feeling a bit more one-dimensional than usual if that’s even possible, as AC/DC are doing their usual thing and they do it well enough – they are being pretty much AC/DC, it just doesn’t sound as excited or exciting as it did – on occasion on the couple of previous albums.
If you take into consideration the bizarre situation with drummer Phil Rudd’s trouble with the law, over some alleged conspiracies for hiring someone to murder someone on his behalf and him almost missing the recordings and overall acting erratically over a period that he should have been acting more in accordance with the bands needs, it’s a bit of a minor miracle that his performances are actually included on it. O’Brien and Fraser on production and mix have once again done a commendable job, making the band sound pretty good, given all the odd circumstances surrounding the making of this album, so hats off to all involved in making it sound this solid, but as mentioned previously they were ready to bring in a stand in drummer to get the album recorded in the event that Rudd, wouldn’t have turned up even for the postponed recording of his parts, which he actually did.
“Rock or Bust” is the lead of single and eponymous paean that gives the album its name. It’s got this simple but very effective riff, the sort of thing that made you love “Back in Black” or “Stiff Upper Lip”… but damn it if it ain’t repetitive!
I found the boogie, woogie of “Play Ball” the second single, pretty boring even if I enjoy the “game” and I didn’t mind the song too much. Repeated plays and the tacky video that they dropped, to go along with some other sort of orbs, to go along with them balls, made a lot more sense and made me reappraise and appreciate the tune a bit more.
“Rock the Blues Away” is a lot more laid back and unlike the “loaded” metallic edged AC/DC harkening back to the 70s stuff and there’s some nice, simple, storytelling there. I actually liked this tune a lot more than say “Play Ball”...
“Miss Adventure” works the double entendre double-time and has a decent cascading riff, but, it seems to be s little formulaic, feels a bit like AC/DC on autopilot and that ain’t good...
“Dogs of War” had me looking left and right for signs of the Barnsley boys… but I could find em anywhere… haha, it’s an over the top simple two by two, rocker that ain’t bad, but again it’s hardly the amazing song that would keep you coming back to it over and over. Yet even in its simplicity it’s chorus works well enough, so I can’t complain too much I suppose...
“Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” is another simple kinda laid back number, that I wouldn’t have minded if the album was super-tight and this was a bit of a “loose” moment but as it stands it feels like a bit of a filler.
“Hard Times” has this doppelganger riff that feels like the “negative” from the one used in the “Satellite Blues” from “Stiff Upper Lip” it ain’t too bad, but you’ll get the distinct feeling of deja vu while listening to it... or almost.
“Baptism by Fire” is again quite simple, but at least it has some “fire” in it… there’s a bit of rocking going on… and even if it isn’t the most inspired the band has ever been, in the context of the album it sort of impresses.
“Rock the House” has a cool intro, an inspired riff and Johnno feels like putting in a good, no... a great performance… in the tradition of some cool ass AC/DC and Zeppelin ones =… but then what, a super simple and rather disappointing chorus just screws the rest all the nice things that the song has going on for it, condemning it to mediocrity.
“Sweet Candy” has a promising title and tries to get some nice rhythm thing – going on, but it also dwells in filler – went through it, will I even remember the tune ten years from now – territory. Sadly.
Lastly “Emission Control” ain’t got shit to do with ecology – it’s another double entendre – damnus, Bonnie, would probably be proud of you boys Johnno boy! Keeping up the British End! Yeah! If you also manage to keep the good ship ACDC from becoming a tit-anic, it would be nice...
“Rock or Bust”, is AC/DC doing what they do but the engines are sort of needing some coal, pumped… in there pronto… I mean it’s fair, but if we want to be square, AC/DC have recently been much better than this... it’s understandable that w/o Malc, the chemistry might be different and the band may need a bit to find the proper chemistry and get “the mojo” back. I’d actually go to Vegas and have a bit of a party to jog down the memories… also getting the producer or a guy to help em weed through songs, might be helpful. I’ve always thought, this might have helped bands from releasing albums full of “duds” unless, they don’t give a shit. AC/DC half deliver…