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AC/DC: PWR/UP - Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 23rd 2020
The new AC/DC album is here
After the death of founding guitarist Malcolm Young and the hearing issues of singer Brian Johnson, fans were forgiven for thinking the greatest hard rock band had come to a sad end. Not terrible – their last album was good – but to end through death and medical issues just seemed sad. Plus drummer Phil Rudd's legal woes, bassist Cliff Williams citing health to retire, and everyone's age and… it seemed inevitable the band was not going to continue.

Sometimes it is really good to be proven wrong.

November has come and a new AC/DC album has been released and all is right with the world.
PWR/UP by AC/DC (2020)
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The album, their seventeenth studio album, consists of 12 songs, all attributed to Malcom and Angus Young. Apparently, they were taken from a lot of notes kept by Malcolm over the years, songs that didn't make other albums or had been left unfinished, that sort of thing, made into full songs following his death. And, more than that, the band consists of nearly the classic line-up: Brian Johnson on vocals, Angus Young on lead guitar, Cliff Williams on bass, Phil Rudd on drums. And on rhythm guitar is Stevie Young, the nephew of Angus and Malcolm, son of their eldest brother, so it is keeping it in the family.

Maybe because of all this… you know exactly what you are going to get. This is an AC/DC album. And it sounds like an AC/DC album. If it ain't broke, don't fix it sort of thing. And yet, the band sound renewed and the album is another fine one to add to their canon.
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This picture was scanned in from the booklet that came with the CD.

A very fine one. 12 tracks, 40 minutes. The longest track is just over 4 minutes, so nothing outstays its welcome – that is something a lot of modern artists need to learn. This is an album that sounds like it was designed to be played live. Let's hope they get the chance to do that. And, on that note, let's look at the tracks.

'Realize' We start with that classic AC/DC from the word go. Johnson's voice has not lost a thing here and Stevie Young has slotted into the band seamlessly. But, really, I think the opening lines from this opening track are almost a statement of intent:
"The moment you realize
Those moments just pass you by…

'Rejection' Straight into a track that you would swear came from an earlier album. It is great, and Johnson's voice is really on form here. It chugs along and has that head-banging riff you want from AC/DC. Seriously, this is a really good track.

'Shot In The Dark' This was the first single released from the album, and a good choice for that. This has been the best opening of an AC/DC album in a long time. But this track is a definite highlight.

'Through The Mists Of Time' And just when you thought it couldn't get better, along comes this track. It's a little slower and the lyrics are more contemplative, but this is a great sound, and maybe my favourite track on the whole album. I mean, these are not the lyrics we expect from Acca-Dacca:
"Hear the whisper of the whirlwind
Monster shadows, a light gone dim
Dark horses roam in my sleep
Mystic voices conjure up our dreams…

'Kick You When You're Down' Underpinned by a guitar hook that just drives it along and with lyrics that, although not written by Johnson, seem like they mean something to him, this makes 5 stand-out tracks in a row to open this album.

'Witch's Spell' There is almost a 'Who Made Who' vibe about this track. It chugs along with those guitar stabs, and has a sing-along chorus that is waiting for 80,000 people to join in.

'Demon Fire' This track has a slightly different sound, being led by the drums. Seriously, there has not been a bad track so far on this album.

'Wild Reputation' Okay track, but it lacks something that the previous tracks all had. Not sure what it is, but it is just there. Not bad, certainly, but there.

'No Man's Land' This one didn't do much for me. Felt a little "by numbers" and there was nothing about it that really caught my attention, especially after what if followed. Standard AC/DC album track.

'Systems Down' Everything I just said about 'Wild Reputation' cut and paste here, only this song has a guitar solo (brief though it is) and maybe moves along a little bit easier.

'Money Shot' Okay, now we lift, with a typical non-PC AC/DC track. This brought a smile to my face, though I know people will be offended by it. Still, decent track.

'Code Red' And we finish with an interesting track. It starts off sounding like so many AC/DC songs before it through the years, but then it builds to the sort of rocker that made AC/DC the band they are. Decent way to finish.

This is one of the best AC/DC albums in years. Where Back In Black was a tribute to the fallen Bon Scott, this is for Malcolm Young. And maybe it is that sense of tribute that brings out the best in the band. Because this is an amazing album. And, again, it is the old guard who are showing the youngsters what rocking is. The amount of older rockers who have released awesome albums this year has been fantastic.

Look, if you're a fan, get this album. And for those too young to have really got into the band, then this is not a bad way to be introduced to AC/DC.

I really enjoyed this album. Yes, I only review things I like (as I have to always say), but this is definitely a "best of the year" sort of release. So good. Recommended.
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This picture was scanned in from the booklet that came with the CD.

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