Most rock ‘n’ roll fans know that 1980 should have been a very bad year for Aussie hard-rock act AC/DC. Shortly after the band had finally reached international acclaim with 1979′s Highway to Hell, lead screamer Bon Scott died suddenly in true rock-star fashion (he choked on his own vomit in the back seat of his car). And that could have been the end of it.
They weren’t finished yet, though – within the next five months, the band found a new singer, wrote 10 new songs and released its seventh studio album.
Now that’s a pretty good story. But it wouldn’t be worth a damn if the resulting album was not Back in Black – an unstoppable aural assault, with so much strut and swagger to spare that it could be called the most explosive rock ‘n’ roll eulogy ever recorded. No lame power ballads, no existential meditations on death – and certainly no rehab. Just all killer, no filler, lean and mean rock ‘n’ roll, propelled by Angus Young’s instantly recognizable guitar riffs.
The album is an example of perfection in simplicity. Each track is tightly wound and ready to blow, but producer (and future Mr. Shania Twain) Robert “Mutt” Lange maintains clarity amid chaos. Every track has become a lesson in air-guitar greatness, and a model for kick-ass karaoke.
Songs like the hauntingly heavy opening track “Hell’s Bells” and the rolling thunder of “Givin’ the Dog a Bone” confirm that Back in Black deserves to be the soundtrack to every bar brawl, or at least your next late-night freeway drive. New singer Brian Johnson proved he was more than capable of filling Scott’s hard-drinking, hard-living, womanizing shoes on songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “What Do You Do for Money Honey,” and other highlights such as the title track and – hell, everything here is classic.
For those about to rock, we salute you.
This review was published in the March 23, 2007 issue of the Washington Square News.