AC/DC: PWR UP (Sony, digital outlets)

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AC/DC: PWR UP (Sony, digital outlets)
Okay, let's get the old joke out of the way first: How can you tell one AC/DC album from another?

Answer: You can't.

Not true of course, but – like Status Quo and the Ramones – there is a patented AC/DC sound and if you expect that on this, their 17thstudio album, they were going to announce a new direction then you'd be fooling yourself.

So no, there's no acoustic numbers, foray into world music or Brian Eno at the desk offering advice.

Perhaps the only surprising thing about this remarkably strong, 12-song collection is that it exists at all.

In recent years they lost their founder/rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, drummer Phil Rudd had considerable and widely reported troubles involving drugs, money, threatening to kill and odd behaviour, singer Brian Johnson lost his hearing (perhaps that isn't so surprising) and there was an announcement bassist Cliff Williams was quitting (since redacted) . . .

But here's (almost all) the old gang back on a bunch of songs which should have a registered track mark symbol after each title (except perhaps Through the Mists of Time which takes a minute of Cold Chisel-cum-indie rock before it gets to the archetypal accadacca sound).

There are powerful stadium rockers as always in Shot in the Dark (which sounded like “I shot the dog” on a first hearing), the tightly-wound chant-alongs of Kick You When You're Down and Demon Fire (with its old blues imagery), Rejection borrows a touch from the Who's Pictures of Lily but pointedly goes nowhere else with the chords . . .

With only one song here ticking past the four minute mark, AC/DC are masters of pop economy (check Systems Down by way of example) as much as brittle and disciplined rock.

All the songs are credited to Malcolm and Angus Young, which suggests a lot of ideas were laid down half a decade ago, the textbook riffs are all in place, producer Brendan O'Brien is on hand, Johnson's voice sounds much as it ever did, Angus barely wastes a note on what passes for guitar solos . . .

AC/DC are back and – pleasingly for fans – it's like they've been away.

Trademark registered . . . 45 years ago.

.

You can hear this album on Spotify here.

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