A minimalist album that enshrines AC/DC’s iconic tone and style
Since 1973, the Australian band AC/DC have developed a formidable rock and roll legacy, and their iconic tone and songwriting are still loved by many rock fans around the globe. While there are widespread criticisms that the band’s compositions are simplistic and trite, and that their lyrics are often Satanic and misogynistic, that distinct “AC/DC” sound has still, in the view of many, remained impactful to this day. AC/DC’s 17th album Power Up (PWR/UP) once again delivers unadulterated rock and roll music.
The lead-off track “Realize” indisputably emanates the band’s well-known vibe. The introduction, particularly Brian Johnson’s distinct raspy voice, along with the familiar chord progressions and song structures, screams AC/DC. While the basic drum beats and lack of exciting fills are a recall to some of the least exciting parts of AC/DC’s music, the guitar riffs and solo radiate liveliness and still push the song in a more powerful direction. The next track, “Rejection,” is in the same key and has a similar riff, but the tempo is moderate. This song also gives off a renewed sense of vitality with crunchy guitar riffs.
“Through the Mists of Time” is different. The opening drum beats are not played in the usual 4/4 even meter, but rather in a combination of smaller meters that make up an eight-beat unit. This drastically changes the feel of the song. In addition, the smooth transition to the familiar 4/4 meter is even more uncharacteristic of AC/DC. In the chorus, AC/DC incorporates a minor chord, which is very uncommon in their compositions. Such inclusion attaches a special flavor to the song that was not present in most of their songs. Since the album was written as a tribute to Malcolm Young, who was the co-founder, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and composer of the band, the addition of minor sonorities in the chorus makes a deep impression on the listeners.
“Kick You When You’re Down” has an intro that feels tense, but its tenseness resolves after some cathartic drum fills. AC/DC’s lack of drum fills throughout the rest of the project makes this moment all the more satisfying. Along with the bass and guitar mimicking these fills, this track’s instrumentation point’s the band’s sound in an upbeat direction. The riffs are more complex in terms of the number of notes but remain catchy. Overall, this song is great for casual listening. The final song “Code Red” is an interesting one. Rhythmically, the beginning is reminiscent of “Back in Black” until a groovy guitar riff kicks in. The short breaks between riffs and sections help to give the song its own distinct identity, and the album a proper conclusion.
It is absolutely astonishing that AC/DC’s new album sounds like the past 16 albums. In all seriousness, the band deserves an accolade for remaining true to their musical identity. Not many rock bands, or any other groups from another musical genre, can maintain or would be allowed to keep their musical sound and identity and still remain relevant to the mainstream. This is especially true when the music industry has been increasingly more wealth driven and treats artists and compositions as mere commodities. Of course, there is nothing wrong with moneymaking, but ideally, there should be a balance between artistic creation and monetary gain. All ranting aside, the next AC/DC project, while still likely to be at least somewhat exciting and musically rewarding, will probably sound like the other 17 albums.