When one hears a new AC/DC album is cometh, it genuinely feels like Christmas. The band are notorious for taking time with releases, so it is exciting. POWER UP marks the first one in six years.
They have gone through their fair share of trials and tribulations since with Brian Johnson’s hearing issues, drummer Phil Rudd’s personal demons, Cliff William’s retirement and, of course, Malcolm Young’s untimely death. This leads us to this tribute to the co-founder and songwriter, responsible for some of the band’s classic tunes. The aforementioned individuals have managed to patch up their differences and returned to the studio in Canada to bring us these 12 tracks of highly charged rock n roll.
Realize is the first track is an absent reminder of the band’s signature hooks and pulsating guitar riffs. Brian Johnson sounds as menacing as ever as he screeches “And now you realize”. This feels like an intentional start to say they are back, as Angus Young gets back into the swing of things. This is the type of track a fan can expect from them, as they always produce tight chemistry between them.
Rejection follows in similar guise with Johnson delivering soulful croons between verses to show he still has it. The music is raw, simple and effective. Angus delivers blistering solo after riffs, whilst Stevie Young does an ample job on rhythm guitar. Phill Rudd interchanges every drum beat with the Youngs like a schoolboy practising with mates. The songwriting always feels the same with the prior knowledge of knowing what works for the listener. Johnson sounds like a wounded animal as he warns about feeling rejected.
Shot in the Dark is the lead track that most people have heard on radio umpteen times already. The joint choruses feature a lot on this record, which reminds me of their stuff round about the turn of the century. It suits the commercial side of things and works to effect without the need for flashy showmanship or bombastic vocals. On this track, it was the right pick to feature first. Johnson’s screeches like the frontman he is to the offset of another salivating guitar display from Angus, which makes one think he could do this in his sleep. He always sounds like a man enjoying himself.
The album does seem like it peters slightly with tracks feeling like fillers, before Kick You When You Are Down jolts you back into free rocking mode. AC/DC show they are not afraid to add some parts of variation to their sounds with a classic boogie riff trading off the growling vocals to add some attitude and swagger into the mix.
Demon Fire is a favourite for this writer as it continues the punchiness of the aforementioned track. There are similarities to It Is Not Safe in New York City with the same verve and energy. Johnson begins with an exclamation of “He likes to drive you crazy” before another salacious riff enters the fray like a racing car off the tracks. The synergetic injection of boogie is what the band does best and is easily the standout track that wouldn’t feel out of place on radio stations nationwide.
No Man’s Land is a slow tempo blues number to feature some slide guitar that accompanies Johnson as the man down on his luck.
Money Shot is a throwback to the nineties sound with a trade-off between the Young family to kickstart affairs. Johnson is on fire once again in his role as the salivating frontman, declaring “What’s the antidote’s name”. The band feel like once again with tight drumming playing off Johnson’s Hallows growls and feels like he’s never been away. Johnson still feels like the singer he was six years ago, as he’s not skipped a beat. Johnson’s vocals have improved a lot more, as Young’s guitar work and chemistry is tight as ever as they trade off on another in a way it feels like they are egging each other on to produce a bigger sound.
And finally, Code Red wraps up things on a high. The recognisable sounds of Young fingers running up and down the fretboard like a snake waiting for its prey is all the more rhythmic as Brian Johnson sounds like a man with intent in his voice as his vocal style grows in confidence as the album progresses.
Overall, this was a declaration that AC/Dc is not done yet with the expected fire and passion here to remind us Rock is not dead…and the boys from down under are here to stay.
The band are back, so plug in your Gibson’s and time to power up