Comfort food. Even in the pretentious, trend-maniacal world of shows like Masterchef, contestants get big marks for presenting ‘deconstructed’ versions of old, Nonna-baked favourites. We all, in the deepest recesses of our battered psyches, it seems, love a bit of comfort.
This is no different in music, and, mid way through Shot In The Dark, the leadoff single from this, AC/DC‘s seventeenth full-length album, you find the proof of this particular supposition. In the grand scheme of things Shot In The Dark is no better than something you might find tucked away on side two of Flick Of The Switch, but it really doesn’t matter. Everything you want from Angus Young and company (save, of course, for the rock steady riffage of the much-missed Malcolm Young) is to be found wrapped up in it’s three minute duration, and that’s enough for starters.
It’s not all grim-faced mining of the mediocre, however. Both Through The Mists of Time and Kick You When You’re Down move away from the blueprint (a little), going beyond Back In Black to reprise the feel of Highway To Hell (the former) and High Voltage (the latter). Witch’s Spell goes even further, Angus and Stevie Young conjuring some superbly Stonesy vibes out of their axes to come up with music that sounds genuinely, gloriously fresh and alive. It’s the best thing your humble interlocutor has heard from this band in maybe thirty years.
Demon’s Fire is vintage Acca Dacca, powered by the unstoppable rhythm section that is Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, Young lighting the touch paper on a swaggering riff that’ll bring back memories of the first time you heard this band; Brendan O’Brien, sensibly retained in the producer’s chair after sterling stints on Black Ice and Rock Or Bust captures the Young lightning (all songs on this album are credited to Angus and Malcolm) superbly here, with perhaps the best news being the superb performance of returning throat Brian Johnson, who sounds positively energised on this track, back to his old mischievous best – good news indeed.
Wild Reputation drives straight to it’s gang-vocalled chorus without too much messing about, riding on the back of some nice percussive, bluesy picking on the main riff, whilst No Man’s Land goes back to the creative motherlode for inspiration, and is perhaps the only track that really, unapologetically does so – all through it’s stentorian chorus you’ll be expecting either a cannon to go off or a bell to toll, but what were we saying about comfort? The staccato stomp of Systems Down features some of Angus’ best soloing of the album – he’s quite reserved in his lead work overall on Power Up, seemingly more content to go for feel and emotion rather than pyrotechnic showboating – as does the quite brilliant Money Shot, which again tip’s it’s school hat to the blessed Keef but is absolutely none the worse for it.
Code Red ends proceedings, bookending the album with opening track Realize in straightahead, uncomplicated (some might say comforting) fashion; But the beginning and the end are not the whole thing, and it has to be said with some pleasure that this really is one of the most varied, enjoyable albums AC/DC have released in some while. It’s been a difficult few years for the band, both collectively and as individuals, since the release of Rock Or Bust; that they’ve come up with another album at all would have been worthy of praise enough. That they’ve come up with one of their best albums in decades – there are moments here when you will find yourself quite literally unable to stop smiling whilst listening – is nothing short of miraculous. Power Up indeed… Now, where’s that deconstructed Tiramisu?
Power Up is out now.