AC/DC: ‘Power Up’

AC/DC
POWER UP
Released on November 13, 2020 (Columbia / Sony Music Australia)

Review:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, any real rock fan is aware that AC/DC have released a new album. Power Up is the band’s 18th studio album (depending how you count it) and the first since Rock Or Bust in 2014.  It’s nice to see Brian Johnson back on vocals, and I guess Phil Rudd beat his legal issues. The line-up also includes Angus Young of course, and Cliff Williams on bass, with Stevie Young who replaced his late uncle Malcom during the recording of the 2014 album.  In fact, RollingStone said in October of 2020, “The LP [Power Up] was recorded in late 2018 and early 2019, but Angus raided the AC/DC vault of unreleased songs before they began and every track is credited to Angus and Malcolm Young. “This record is pretty much a dedication to Malcolm, my brother,” says Angus. “It’s a tribute for him like Back In Black was a tribute to Bon Scott.”

AC/DC have always been a band known for their consistent sound.  You essentially know what to expect from each album before tearing the cellophane off the new cassette or CD. My problem with the band is that following the mammoth success of The Razor’s Edge, they kind of got lazy. Ballbreaker (1995), and Stiff Upper Lip (2000) were fillers at best. I actually enjoyed some of Black Icein 2008, but totally forgot about their 2014 effort Rock Or Bust.  Sure it was great that they were still producing new music, but much of their output was kind of…. meh.

There’s a real feeling on Power Up to prove that AC/DC are still a force to be reckoned with. Opening track “Realize” sure proves that the band can evolve on a set formula. The rhythm guitar is pulling off an intriguing backstop to Angus’ lead work.  “Rejection” does fall back into the typical format, which doesn’t interest me much, but “Shot In The Dark” hearkens back to the band’s early ’80s feel with intentionally sloppy sounding blues riffs. Then there’s “Through the Mists of Time.” That’s way too conceptual a title for an AC/DC song, yet the track is kind of fun and a bit different from the band’s usual fare.

I’m thinking “Kick You When You’re Down” may have been a last minute reject from both 1988’s Blow Up Your Video and 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip albums. I really like the guitar work on the intro to “Witch’s Spell” and chorus. “Demon Fire” recalls the same basic guitar lines as “Safe in New York City” from 2000. I’m enjoying “Wild Reputation” as a laid back exposition of Angus’ simple guitars and Brian’s vocals once again. The next couple of tracks follows the AC/DC playbook more than the previous selections. Guitar riff over drums, with bass entering during the verse. It’s not a bad thing, but as I mentioned earlier, you know what to expect from this band. I’m not trying to take away from the talent of any of the musicians on this album, only to say they know what works and they stick to it.

Sure, it’s AC/DC. There’s no “Ride On”, “Dirty Deeds”, “Back In Black” or “You Shook Me All Night Long”, and that’s too bad.  In fact, there’s really no memorable track at all on Power Up that would rank amongst those classics. I’d posit that Angus and the boys haven’t really had a song to hit the cultural zeitgeist since “Thunderstruck” in 1990. They are playing safe and predictable hard rock without trying anything close to new and innovative these days… And it seems to work for them. I like Power Up, because it is a little bit better than more of the same. Just a little though.

Track List:
01. Realize
02. Rejection
03. Shot In The Dark
04. Through The Mists of Time
05. Kick You When You’re Down
06. Witch’s Spell
07. Demon Fire
08. Wild Reputation
09. No Man’s Land
10. Systems Down
11. Money Shot
12. Code Red

Band Members:
Brian Johnson – lead vocals
Angus Young – lead guitar
Stevie Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Cliff Williams – bass, backing vocals
Phil Rudd – drums

Production:
Produced by Brendan O’Brien
Mixed by Mike Fraser and Brendan O’Brien
Engineered by Mike Fraser
Mastered by Ryan Smith
Additional engineering: Billy Bowers
Assistant engineering: Zach Blackstone and Dominick Civiero

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook
YouTube

Reviewed by Metal Mike for Sleaze Roxx, November 2020

AC/DC‘s “Shot In The Dark” video:

AC/DC – Shot In The Dark (Official Video)

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AC/DC‘s “Realize” single: