I must admit, I encountered mixed feelings about the prospect of a new ‘DC record, and not solely due to frontman Brian Johnson’s well-publicised “suspension” last time out. His lungs almost failed midway through their most recent live stint, with Axl Rose famously deputising for the remainder of the tour, ahead of rumours he may be recruited permanently going forward.
Thankfully that didn’t transpire but far more importantly, Power Up is the first offering from the Scotland-born Aussie-raised Young brothers’ since elder Malcolm succumbed to dementia 3 years ago. AC/DC’s new-found creative void is partially filled by the return of Johnson, hearing somewhat restored thanks to pioneering top-secret clevers, veteran drummer Rudd, now free of legal wrangling, and long time bassist Williams, no doubt convinced the 2020 line-up felt more like the ‘DC of old, particularly with nephew Stevie Young continuing as Malcolm’s replacement.
The dozen songs on Power Up perhaps constitute the AC/DC ‘Coda’ moment: Angus, increasingly resembling wee Jimmy Krankie on the publicity snap, adorned in his trademark school uniform, raiding the archives and finding enough usable cutting room floor material, every song on the record fittingly co-credited to Malcolm.
Released on 7 October, two days after elder statesman Johnson’s 73rd birthday, lead-off single ‘Shot in the Dark’ is quintessential AC/DC, as is the opener ‘Realize’, the quintet belying their combined age, well north of 300 years these days. Even nephew Stevie is only 20 months younger than uncle Angus, the legacy of large families sired either side of a world war.
Johnson’s trademark primal scream is still abundantly evident, what with a lifetime’s cigarette smoke, he must have been born with a titanium larynx although here it veers towards the rear of the mix. Nevertheless, the well-established studio chemistry of Young Sr, Rudd and Williams undoubtedly elevate this record to a pretty decent level, Young’s trademark polished mega-riffs driving no-frills innuendo-laden hard rock, providing a welcome dose of familiarity in these crazy times.
Power Up does exactly what it says on the tin which is probably no bad thing; diehards will be flocking in droves. Admittedly, these songs are unlikely to change the world, but to see the quintet back in the studio after so many recent setbacks is testament to a band that was never going to simply go away quietly, creating a fitting tribute to a sorely missed former bandmate for arguably the second time in their history. Not forgetting, every new fan introduced to AC/DC has the opportunity to plunder their back catalogue where there are indeed many more treasures to behold,
Words by Mike Price
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