WTF? Did I miss the memo? (Was there even a memo?) When the hell did AC/DC become “family” entertainment?
These guys were once a dangerous band — universally feared and despised by parents worldwide. They created evil-sounding, high energy, guitar-driven hard rock for horny teenaged boys that made most moms during my younger days shake their heads and gasp with disapproval. Early classics like “Sin City,” “The Jack,” and “TNT” taught valuable lessons (in graphic detail) about sex, dirty living, disease and even more sex — real-life stuff that teenaged guys circa 1979 needed to know but weren’t learning anywhere else. In fact, I learned practically everything I knew (at the time) about chicks through various AC/DC anthems, including their little ditty about the friendly, plus-sized woman named Rosie. And with horns poking through his schoolboy cap and a pitch-fork tail to boot, the devilish image of Angus Young on the cover of one of rock’s all-time greatest records, 1979’s Highway to Hell is, to me, still a bit disturbing.
So imagine my utter shock, surprise, and total amazement when I recently visited my local Walmart store only to discover (between the box of $1.00 DVD Westerns and the barrel of discounted Hannah Montana Halloween candy) a prominently displayed rack of CDs promoting the exclusive Walmart release of the newest AC/DC record, Black Ice.
Could this be the sign of the apocalypse? Well maybe, but I guess it’s better for the “Little Johnnys” of the world to be influenced by an emasculated version of AC/DC than a testosterone-pumping current chartbuster who doesn’t play an instrument or sing and thinks that “melody” is just the name of one of the “bee-atches” that he met “in da club” the night before.
Alright, I know — enough already! So what about the record?
Veteran “golden child” producer Brendan O’Brien (Korn, Springsteen, Velvet Revolver, The Coolies, Pearl Jam, STP) is at the helm on Black Ice and with the classic line-up of Angus, Malcolm, Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd, has created a well-produced, radio (and family) friendly slab of solid rock.
The record’s razor sharp lead single “Rock ‘N Roll Train,” along with “Smash ‘N Grab” and “Spoilin’ for a Fight,” possesses the signature straight-ahead blood-pumping drum grooves, cock-rock guitar riffs, and ball busting, sing-a-long vocals that fans have come to expect from AC/DC. However, it’s the über-infectious “Anything Goes” that is their mightiest stab at a commercial single since 1980’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
Always a gritty, blues-based rock combo at its core, AC/DC remains true to its roots here on such cuts as “Decibel” and the slide guitar heavy “Stormy May Day.”
But it’s not all good news for Satan’s former little helpers. With its 15 tracks clocking in at 55-plus minutes, Black Ice does contain its fair share of clunkers. Forgettable gems such as “Rock ‘N Roll Dream,” “Rockin’ All the Way,” and the title track are prime examples of tired-sounding generic rock pabulum which are probably better suited for a future “rarities” compilation record.
And why on Earth is there a picture of Malcolm Young actually smiling in the CD booklet? He’s been rock’s quintessential evil-looking ugly dude for more than 30 years! I guess that exclusive deal with Walmart must have been a doozie.