AC/DC, "Power Up" (Columbia)
This isn't the first time AC/DC has successfully recharged itself. In 1980, the Australian hard-rock band drafted Brian Johnson to replace the late Bon Scott — then promptly scored a worldwide smash when "Back in Black" came out a mere five months after Scott's death.
The turmoil of the past few years, though, felt like it might end AC/DC's half-century career. In 2014, founding guitarist Malcolm Young left the band as a result of dementia (he died in 2017), while longtime drummer Phil Rudd was arrested on charges of drug possession and making death threats. Johnson quit (or was fired) midway through a 2016 tour due to hearing loss; Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses stepped in to finish the tour, after which bassist Cliff Williams said he was done.
Yet here comes AC/DC with its latest comeback album. Guitarist Angus Young is flanked once again by Johnson, Rudd and Williams plus the Youngs' nephew Stevie, who also played on AC/DC's previous LP, 2014's "Rock or Bust." All are between the ages of 63 and 73.
As always, the music puts crunching riffs and screeching vocals over stomping midtempo grooves; as always, the lyrics pull from a seemingly endless supply of risqué double entendres.
"Realize" has a gloriously scratchy lick to go with Johnson's beyond-ravaged yowl, while the gang vocals in "Shot in the Dark" conjure a cheery band of pirates anybody would want to join. "Kick You When You're Down" and "Wild Reputation" rumble in that inimitable AC/DC manner, in which the intensity keeps building even as the beat stays steady.
In these cuts you can feel the band's joy in getting back together — and in its umpteenth realization that the old tricks still work. But with a group locked on a signature sound, the quality of the individual songs is paramount, and too many of those — from the hookless "System Down" to the blandly bluesy "No Man's Land" — are forgettable even after half a dozen spins.
Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
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