Airbourne: ‘Boneshaker’

Released on October 25, 2019 (Spinefarm Records)

Review by Todd Myers:
One of the most consistent hard rock bands over the past decade have been Aussie rockers, Airbourne. Releasing a new studio album every three years, fans have had to test their patience awaiting new music from the band. 2019 meant it was time for a new record, their first with new guitarist David “Harri” Harrison. As Airbourne slid back into activity playing shows, they started playing a new tune called “Boneshaker” which ended up being the lead single and title track off the new album. The track is a solid Airbourne rocker but lacked the initial smack in the face that their lead singles have typically come with. Subsequent single “She Gives Me Hell” was also a fine track while “Backseat Boogie” seemed a bit lackluster. I was anxious for give the full album a spin and see how is sounded from start to finish.

Airbourne set up shop in Nashville, Tennessee in the famed RCA Studio A with noted producer, Dave Cobb. To put this into perspective, the new Oak Ridge Boys‘ Christmas album was recorded in the same studio with the same producer! To say I was curious to see how this marriage would work out would be an understatement. One thing that my ears noticed while listening to the three songs released before the album dropped, in particular the latter two, was that the mix of the songs sounded too high. Lead singer Joel O’Keeffe’s voice seemed to be a notch higher and the mix just did not sound clear to me… It sounded off, to the point that I wondered if something was up with the mix on iTunes and if it would get resolved by the time the album was released.

Having preordered Boneshaker on CD as well as the limited edition Blood In The Water vinyl, I was stoked when they arrived. The album cover is adorned with a cool WWII looking bomber logo and has a worn look to it. The CD booklet contains a mix of photos as well as all the album lyrics and credits. The look and feel of the physical release is top notch. Without delay, I put the album on and dove in.

The album kicks off with the title track, “Boneshaker.” This is a strong opening track and a very solid Airbourne track. It is obvious why it was the first song released off the album. It is a very good song. Not great, but very good. Track two is “Burnout The Nitro.” The first signs of Nashville appear here with some slight twang in the guitar. It works in the context of the song, but I’m not sure it works beyond that. The song comes across as extremely generic with its “Smoke! Fire! Thunder! Burnout the nitro!” and the album takes a strong drop from the opening track immediately. It gets a bit of a bounce back with “This Is Our City” which sounds like a song off their sophomore album No Guts, No Glory. Another solid track that Airbourne fans will certainly dig.

“Sex To Go” is next and if Airbourne have an AC/DC vibe, than this song has a Powerage vibe to it. This is about as dirty of a lyric as you’ll find on this record, and its not that dirty. It is pretty PG compared to the last album’s “Do Me Like You Do Yourself” and “Down On You.” A decent song with a decent solo, but there is nothing special here. “Backseat Boogie” keeps the Bon Scott era AC/DC vibe going through another song, but again, nothing special here. “Blood In The Water” brings a bit of life back to the record, but it’s “She Gives Me Hell” that finally matches the attitude of the opening track. This is easily tied with “Boneshaker” as the two best songs on the album. ”Switchblade Angel” is another fairly forgettable track, while “Weapon of War” has a cool vibe and is arguably the third best cut on the record. The album draws to a close with “Rock ‘N’ Roll For Life” which somewhat resembles “Let There Be Rock,” but again is nothing overly special.

The main thing that drives me nuts about this album is the production of it. It’s too quiet. The pounding rhythm section you have come to know and love on each previous Airbourne album is nowhere to be found here. As I listen to the album, I feel like I am waiting for it to kick into stereo of HD. If you are curious as to what exactly I mean, try making a playlist with songs off of each Airbourne album and when one from Boneshaker comes on, it just feels like its not up to snuff with the previous ones sonically. Airbourne‘s two finest albums are their debut Runnin’ Wild and their last one Breakin’ Outta Hell. I would place this new album somewhere towards the bottom of what they have put out thus far. Airbourne fans will probably dig it, but it is certainly not the best they have to offer. Luckily with rumors of them finally recording a live album soon, it looks as though we won’t have to wait another three years for some new Airbourne after this lackluster release.

Review by Olivier:
It’s been said that there are only two things that are sure in life — death and taxes. Another sure thing appears to be that Aussie rockers Airbourne will deliver a straight up, rocking, rock n’ roll album. Airbourne have just released their fifth studio album Boneshaker and once again, the group is not reinventing the wheel but rather delivering what people expect (and want) from them. I suspect that the real reason is that they are simply playing the type of rock n’ roll that they enjoy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want variety or experimentation, Airbourne are simply not what you should be listening to.

The only real question at this point is whether Airbourne have delivered a couple of rock anthems that they can regularly add to their live setlist. With the band’s last two releases (Black Dog Barking and Breakin’ Outta Hell), it seems that there were less really good tracks that would be able to stick in the band’s live set. Boneshaker delivers some mostly solid tunes with one notable disappointment and perhaps one real anthem that will likely be a live staple for years to come. You might have heard the latter already since the title track for Boneshaker is the first single off the album. It’s simply a great song starting slowly, building up and by the time that Joel O’Keeffe delivers his raspy vocal delivery, you’ll be head banging away while singing along to the easy sing along chorus. It’s a simple track but it works showing that a great rock n’ roll tune doesn’t have to be complicated.

The one disappointing track on Boneshaker is the slow plodding “Weapon of War.” The chorus portion of the song is really disappointing. So slow. So dull. It really kills the song, especially after the faster verse portions and the pretty cool guitar solo that can be found on the album. The rest of the songs on Airbourne‘s Boneshaker are all solid but not great ones. “Blood In The Water” has the potential to be a great live track with the slower verse portions and the build up to the faster chorus parts. “This Is Our City” also shows some good potential to be a concert favorite with the “oh oh oh” portions, which I can picture a concert audience singing along to. “Rock ‘N’ Roll For Life” is your standard fast paced rocker — predictable but enjoyable — and sure to be a real barn burner live.

Very similar to AC/DC, Airbourne consistently deliver what they are known for without much, if any, experimentation. Some albums will simply be better than others. While this formula almost guarantees that Airbourne will please most of their fan base, it also means that it’s hard to top their debut full-length album, Runnin’ Wild, which continues to be the jewel in their crown, just like it’s been impossible for AC/DC to top Back In Black. Is Boneshaker the best Airbourne album? No. Is it a good album that I can enjoy every time that I listen to it? Yes. At the end of the day, as a music consumer, that’s all I that can really ask for from a band that is already on its fifth full-length studio album (and sixth if you count Diamond Cuts – The B-Sides).

Track List:
01. Boneshaker
02. Burnout The Nitro
03. This Is Our City
04. Sex To Go
05. Backseat Boogie
06. Blood In The Water
07. She Gives Me Hell
08. Switchblade Angel
09. Weapon of War
10. Rock ‘N’ Roll For Life

Band Members:
Joel O’Keeffe – vocals, lead guitar
Ryan O’Keeffe – drums
Justin Street – bass
Matthew Harrison – guitar

Produced by Dave Cobb
Mixed by Greg Gordon
Engineered by Troy Hulbert
Production Manager: Andrew Brightman

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Todd Myers and Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, November 2019

Airbourne‘s “Boneshaker” video:

Airbourne – Boneshaker

Pick up our new album ‘Boneshaker’ NOW: Music video by Airbourne performing Boneshaker. © 2019 Thunderpoint Pty Ltd., under exclusive licence to Universal Music Operations Limited

Airbourne‘s “Backseat Boogie” song:

Airbourne – Backseat Boogie

Our new album ‘BONESHAKER’ out now! Music video by Airbourne performing Backseat Boogie. © 2019 Thunderpoint Pty Ltd., under exclusive licence to Universal Music Operations Limited. Directed by Richard Oakes/Dark Fable Media