AC/DC are back with their 16th studio album titled Rock or Bust. The band has suffered serious adversity in the past with the death of lead singer Bon Scott. They rose from that loss like a pheonix with one of the highest grossing rock albums in history: Back in Black. Now one of the founding brothers in the band Malcolm Young, has been forced into early retirement due to health problems.
This blow to the band is extremely damaging because those closest to the band, and hardcore fans, will tell you that there is no band without equal parts Angus and Malcolm Young. Malcolm is one of the greatest rythme guitarists in rock music both as a player and a writer. The Young brothers just happen to have a nephew that learned guitar from the Malcolm mold of playing. He even subbed for Malcolm on some live shows back in the 80’s. He performs in Malcolm’s place on this new album too.
So the loss of Malcolm won’t be felt as strongly by fans on this album because Malcolm actually wrote a lot of the music before dimentia took his ability to play. Stevie can play Malcolm’s music so it still feels like we have Malcolm on Rock or Bust.
Rock or Bust reminds us that it’s ok to have fun with music. Not every song has to be deep and dramatic. Sometimes it”s ok to laugh and shake your ass. Angus remains the master if the guitar riff here by delivering some him inducing runs that fall right in with previous albums Stiff Upper Lip and Ballbrwaker.
The first single “Play Ball” brins on the tenbagery fresh sexual enuendo and poppy beat that make this a perfect tune to get adopted for sports and sure enough the MLB is using it in promo spots. “Rock or Bust” is an airy tune that leaves such a gap in the beginning that you might think it stopped playing. The song has a simple message that’s repeated often on this album: rock music is good, rock is not dead. Its says”in rock we trust, it’s rock or bust”.
This album is full of fantastic hard rock music that also has a timeless guitar pop feel. Lyrically the band doesn’t stray from coomon themes of good music, good times, and well sex. Why not sing about the good stuff though? The album just puts me in a good mood. There are a few songs that deviate from the theme though: “Dogs of War, Baptism by Fire, and Hard Times.” These songs all offer some mean riffs reminiscent of the 80:s AC/DC album “Flick of the Switch”. Brian Johnson’s raspy vocals sound as good on this album as they ever have.
“Rock or Bust” isn’t the groundbreaking album that “Back in Black” was but it is a really solid entry in AC/DC’s discography and its a fresh entry in modern music because there are so few hard rock bands embracing blues and fun equally in their music these days. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard pop charts, number one on rock album charts, and number one on hard rock charts so apparently there are people out there that still like to have fun.
If I have to nitpick I’d say a little more lyrical variety would be good. I’m not saying they gotta get all serious but there are four songs on the release that have “Rock” in the titles. With that said if this is the last AC/DC album, and it very well could be, then they sure went out with a bang!