Presumably, Brian Johnson and co. are actually aware that they produce the same album every few years, and have done for decades. Presumably, they are also aware that they are among a privileged group of popular musical acts who seem to get away with doing this. Rock Or Bust is, predictably, the same album as Black Ice; indeed, it is the same album as Back In Black. It’s short, snappy, high voltage (it’s quite like High Voltage too) and really good. This is car rock at its best, as ever.
AC/DC are the definition of hard rock royalty, and they don’t wear this mantle lightly. Unlike other bands who shed a throwaway 14-track album every 12 months or so, DC’s albums have never been long or throwaway, and Rock Or Bust is their shortest yet at 35 minutes. Every track is equal and considered, and every track has the potential to become a fan favourite and take its place in the pantheon of hard rock anthems. This new effort is satisfyingly consistent, especially when the band’s recent troubles are factored in.
While the title track is a highlight, accompanied by a meat-and-potatoes music video that contains all the familiar totems of classic rock (Marshall stacks, posturing and fan-participation), ‘Rock the Blues Away’ promises to be a live staple, boasting a stadium-friendly sing-along chorus and the traditional ‘big rock ending’. It would be a mistake when reviewing an AC/DC album not to discuss the riffs, which are of excellent quality on Rock Or Bust; the best is undoubtedly that of ‘Miss Adventure’, which grooves and grinds like a classic from the 80s.
Reading too much into DC’s music might be unwise, but the album’s title is clearly a mission statement: despite their advancing age and wavering health, they intend to continue rocking until they, well, bust. In an age where the Rolling Stones’ number of farewell tours is reaching the teens and Thin Lizzy has finally ceased to exist as a brand, AC/DC continue to be classic rock’s lifeline. Sounding absolutely no different to the 70s is advantageous when you effectively serve as your own tribute band. Time has proven that the band’s fans don’t want any musical development from them, and so it seems that they will continue to release ‘new’ music and tour the world until they run out of riffs or die on their feet, whichever is first (and it’s probably the former).
Building on their staggering back catalogue and globetrotting fan base, DC can’t fail to continue conquering the world, with or without Malcolm Young and Phil Rudd. Angus Young’s genre-defining style and guitar tone is exemplified through crystal clear production from Brendan O’Brien and the continued championing of the ever-popular Gibson-through-Marshall formula. Phil Rudd’s four-on-the-floor is as unfettered as ever, while Brian Johnson’s vocals remain unfathomably youthful. This has been a glorious formula for decades – here’s to its continued longevity.