REVIEW: AC/DC - Power Up

RED HOT: Power Up is AC/DC's first album in six years and follows an era of turbulence.
RED HOT: Power Up is AC/DC's first album in six years and follows an era of turbulence.

THERE'S been plenty written about the fact that AC/DC's 17th studio album Power Up is the band's tribute to founder Malcolm Young, much like 1980's blockbuster Back In Black farewelled Bon Scott.

It would be folly to compare Power Up to Back In Black. However the album is significantly better than even the most ardent Acca Dacca fan would have expected.

The six years since AC/DC's Rock Or Bust album have been the most fraught in the hard rock band's 47-year history. Drummer Phil Rudd left the band and served home detention for death threats and drug charges, vocalist Brian Johnson was replaced by Axl Rose due to hearing loss, bassist Cliff Williams retired from music at the end of the 2016 tour and finally the band's original leader Malcolm died in 2017 from dementia.

Somehow Angus Young kept the monolithic ship afloat. Johnson is back with his hearing patched up, Williams was coaxed out of retirement, Rudd is forgiven and Malcolm's nephew Steve Young is handling rhythm guitar duties.

All those factors create a seemingly celebratory vibe on Power Up. There's a sense AC/DC's crunching riffs and boogie-woogie rhythms can cheat death itself.

Malcolm might be gone but Power Up features 12 songs which he and Angus had half-written over the past decade. After 16 albums of forging ahead with a stubborn commitment to their sound, AC/DC were never going to take U-turns.

However, lyrically Power Up carries a sense of sentimentality. On Through The Mists Of Time Johnson screeches, "See dark shadows/ On the walls/ See the pictures/ Some hang, some fall" and on Kick You When You're Down Angus hints at a new-found vulnerability.

AC/DC still slip into cheesy sexualised lyrics on Shot In The Dark and Money Shot, which both appear to praise the virtues of viagra. "Doctor, what's the antidote?/ Lady, just try the money shot/ Best taken when hot."

By the time we reach the album's electrifying closer Code Red, it's impossible not to enjoy the familiar riffs and rhythms. Much like mum's homemade cooking, it's safe, familiar and nostalgic.

3 stars

This story AC/DC rock powerful tribute to Malcolm Young on Power Up first appeared on Newcastle Herald.