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AC/DC - "Rock Or Bust" (CD)

AC/DC - "Rock Or Bust" CD cover image

"Rock Or Bust" track listing:

1. Rock Or Bust
2. Play Ball
3. Rock The Blues Away
4. Miss Adventure
5. Dogs Of War
6. Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
7. Hard Times
8. Baptism By Fire
9. Rock The House
10. Sweet Candy
11. Emission Control

Reviewed by on December 1, 2014

"It's not hard to see the seams in some of the songs, but for the most part, Angus and the boys have managed to put out a solid disc full of good-time rockers."

Angus Young has admitted that AC/DC's latest album, "Rock Or Bust" is a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, largely cobbled together from cast-off riffs created by him and his brother, Malcolm prior to dementia forcing Malcolm's retirement from the band. It's not hard to see the seams in some of the songs, but for the most part, Angus and the boys have managed to put out a solid disc full of good-time rockers.

This is AC/DC's first album without Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, but he shares a writing credit with Angus on all of the songs. His fingerprints are all over a lot of these tracks -- especially the title track, which wisely leads things off. Malcolm and Angus' nephew, Stevie, does as good a job as anyone could of approximating his uncle's rock-solid sound.

Surprisingly, it's the backing vocals that are likely to make one miss Malcolm the most. Without that growl he kicked in, the gang vocals on tracks like "Dogs Of War" and "Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder" feel just a little too clean.

As noted earlier, there are plenty of solid tracks here, including the first single, "Play Ball," with its infectious, albeit jock-rocky chorus and a killer lead line from Angus Young. Other highlights include "Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder," which feels almost like it could've been a B-side from the "High Voltage" years. The poppy "Rock The Blues Away" sounds a lot like "Anything Goes" from "Black Ice," and, while it won't win any awards for lyrical excellence, is a fun little ditty about shooting pool with friends at a neighborhood bar. As was the case with "Black Ice," singer Brian Johnson is sounding a lot better than he did on the likes of "Blow Up Your Video" and "Ballbreaker."

As noted above, Stevie Young does a better-than-decent job at approximating Malcolm's style throughout the album. Cliff Williams doesn't get much of a chance to show off, but there are a few moments when he gets to do something besides the usual eighth-notes. For all of the well-publicized drama surrounding Phil Rudd, there's little evidence of it in his drumming here, though it is, if anything, even more workmanlike than usual -- especially compared with stuff like "She Likes Rock & Roll" from "Black Ice."

On the downside, there are the songs where the seams clearly show. "Baptism By Fire" cribs the riffs to the band's earlier songs "Live Wire" and "Beating Around The Bush" a little too obviously, while "Rock The House" marries a bunch of disparate guitar lines that don't fit well together at all. "Miss Adventure" is a clever title in search of a better song.

In short, it's still a good time to be an AC/DC fan. Even if none of the songs on "Rock Or Bust" hit the heights of "Thunderstruck" or "Hell's Bells," it's still a pretty solid disc, and far from the disaster some were anticipating in light of Malcolm Young's retirement.

Highs: "Play Ball," "Rock Or Bust" and "Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder"

Lows: The seams show on some tracks, with "Rock The House" the worst offender.

Bottom line: A solid disc full of good-time rock, but not among the band's many masterpieces.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)