Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

AC/DC, "Black Ice" (Columbia) [3.5 STARS]

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Thirty-five years and 17 studio releases into a career that has sold 200 million albums worldwide, Australian hard-rockers AC/DC aren't about to mess with the formula, but they don't need to, since the formula never grows old. The combination of a relentless rhythm section, simple but melodic riffs, bluesy leads and massive, chant-along choruses celebrating the timeless joys of adolescence--sex, booze, rock 'n' roll and, um, more sex--is a bottomless well of inspiration in the hands of guitarist brothers Angus and Malcolm Young (aged 53 and 55, respectively) and vocalist Brian Johnson, still packing an unnaturally high register even at age 61.

As Angus recently told the New York Times, "People say it's juvenile music, but pardon me: I thought rock 'n' roll was supposed to be juvenile."

Sure enough, the band's first new album since 2000 gives us tributes to a "Rock 'n' Roll Train," the "Rock 'n' Roll Dream," "Rocking All the Way" and, of course, girls who enjoy all of the aforementioned ("She Likes Rock 'n' Roll"). Yes, it's redundant, and yes, it's slightly stupid, but stupid is brilliant as producer Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen) keeps things shooting forward like a locomotive, with the focus firmly on the band's well-established strengths. Really, the only misstep is the one attempt at socio-political relevance, an anti-war song called "War Machine" that isn't nearly as convincing as the far more fitting chronicle of a barroom brawl, "Spoilin' for a Fight." (Though additional demerits could be handed out for the facts that the band refuses to allow legal downloads of its music, and that it's signed an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart to sell the disc once it arrives in stores on Oct. 20.)

An argument could be made that, if you own "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" (1976), "Highway to Hell" (1979) and/or "Back in Black" (1980), you really don't need another AC/DC album--and that is certainly true of any number of other formulaic rockers. (Hello, Oasis!) But these blue-collar heroes, much like their spiritual brethren in the punk genre, the Ramones, are a lot like beer: There's no such thing as having too much in the fridge.

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I totally agree with your assessment, and even though AC/DC hasn't changed their formula over the years doesn't mean it aint' good. I just heard one of their new tracks on the radio the other day and I said to myself before the vocals ever came in that it was AC/DC. Their music is so truly unique that it never crossed my mind that it might be another band. It seems they have recycled the same riffs over and over again but yet it can still be catchy and considered even original. They are certainly iconic and I have so many fond memories of partying to all of their timeless hits. How else would I be able to get totally pumped up for a Bears game?

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on October 14, 2008 2:22 PM.

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Bob Dylan, "Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased, 1989-2006" (Columbia) [4 STARS] is the next entry in this blog.

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