It’s time the world stopped thinking of AC/DC as just a heavy-metal band. For thirteen albums now, Angus and Malcolm Young have been crafting the kind of guitar riffs any Who-style rock & roll band would kill for. Better yet, the members of AC/DC have allowed no production compromises whatsoever: they’ve carved every one of those irresistible guitar hooks out of pure stone.
Lately that approach has gained hip status, through the hommages of Rick Rubin in his work with the Beastie Boys and the Cult. But AC/DC’s latest album (its first of all-new material in two and a half years) proves that the original riff masters still rule.
The album pounds out material as brutal as the band’s best, but there are subtle shifts along the way. In general, there are more fast numbers than usual and more cuts featuring hooks based on single-note progressions rather than a succession of solid chords. On tracks like “Kissin’ Dynamite” and “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock n Roll,” the band uses the extra room around the notes to create more tension and momentum. Still, even in the denser, more chord-dominated numbers, AC/DC manages to swing. It’s hard to avoid moving to the thick stutter riffs of “Go Zone” or the more conventionally rousing “Heatseeker.” And if those numbers don’t get you gyrating, the band has even included a stone funk-groove number, “Meanstreak.” If a horn section were added, it would almost sound like peak Ohio Players.
Aside from that track, the album posits loyalty to one’s own style as the ultimate virtue. Fortunately, the Young brothers continue to come up with enough inspired riffs to make the tunnel vision justifiable. In fact, the riffs here add up to the band’s catchiest work since its classic album Back in Black. Maybe Blow Up Your Video will finally convince those who have doubted the truth about AC/DC: it’s the metal band that plays solid-gold rock & roll.