Street Sounds: AC/DC are still thunderstruck

Review of AC/DC's 15th album, Rock or Bust, which was recorded in Vancouver.

In a rapidly changing world, take comfort that AC/DC won’t change. Whether it’s 1978 or 2014, AC/DC will keep on rocking as they’ve always done.

Rock or Bust is the group’s 15th album, recorded in Vancouver with producer Brendan O’Brian (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen).

The album is transitional for the veteran hard rock band as it’s the first recorded without founding guitarist Malcolm Young, who has been stricken with dementia. He’s present in spirit as the material on Rock or Bust is compiled from writing sessions with his brother, Angus Young.

As for the songs, they are as fiery and juvenile as ever, and if anyone has nailed a formula successfully it’s this band. They know that if they bring the blood, guts and balls, then it’s a win – as it is here.

Malcolm Young has been replaced with nephew Steve Young on guitar, and the sound template is still intact. You can hear any three songs here, and that’s pretty much the sum of the album.

Consider Got Some Rock and Roll Thunder. You’d swear that they’ve used the title before, but the music is yet another variation on the theme, which is four-on-the-floor intro beat, big crunchy guitar riff, squawking scream and BOOM – swagger time, then add a solo.

Emission Control features a riff that suggests the Youngs haven’t listened to anything newer than 1975, but its unapologetic brashness and goofy character register charm. Part of that is the tongue-in-cheek delivery and reckless attitude they present.

The humour and  raunch is entertaining. You can feel your IQ dropping but in a pleasant way.

The band bounced back in a big way in 1980 when they replaced late singer Bon Scott with similar squawker Brian Johnson, so perhaps they’ll get a third act with this one. Party music doesn’t get more blatant than this. Just don’t expect anything else because it works for them every time.

Dean Gordon-Smith is The Morning Star’s longtime music reviewer. His column, Street Sounds, comes out every Friday.