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This weekend I’ll be mostly listening to…AC/DC’s PowerAge October 30, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

I’d sort of drifted away from AC/DC in the late 1980s and 1990s – as one does. I hadn’t disavowed metal, but my tastes had run more to all things stoner rock. Anyhow, I happened around 1999 to be in a bar, Manitoba’s (owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba, once of New York punk stalwarts and all round tasteless but entertaining guys, The Dictators) in East Village where the Fleshtones were playing a gig. That was entertaining enough, all standing on the bar on their part, wandering through the crowd and out the front door while still playing their instruments. But as good, in its own way, was the jukebox which included Sin City, a track I hadn’t heard in fifteen or so odd years. After the stale nonsense of much of late 90s indie, which had been near permanently ruined for me by electronica and dance, it sounded like a breath of fresh air. And still does.

We were recently talking about The Saints, but chances were that if you were into punk in London in 76/77 you would encounter AC/DC’s sinewy take on the blues in various clubs. It was amped up, unpretentious, speedy. And just as Motorhead were another band that could transcend genres at a time when genres were amazingly impermeable (just ask anyone over 35) so AC/DC was able to slot neatly into the energy of that period. Of course this was anathema to AC/DC themselves who were entirely antagonistic to the idea that they were ‘punk’, but given that much of punk was mining a not dissimilar seam of charged up blues and hand me down rock and roll it is possible to see this as an example of parallel, or even convergent, evolution.

It’s hard to move past the image of many groups, I think that’s all the more true of the really large international acts whose brand overshadows all else, but when I think of AC/DC I think of a remarkable simplicity in what they do. Now, that’s a mixed blessing – quality control varied over the years and little will persuade me that the 1980s were a fertile time for them after Back in Black and a number of tracks on For Those About to Rock. In fairness their second last album, 2001’s Stiff Upper Lip is a return to form, a series of songs which once more dig deep into the blues…

But for me however iconic Back in Black, truth is that it’s the earlier Bon Scott era that I really love. From High Voltage to Highway to Hell they had a run of albums that connected viscerally to rock/metal. Riff after riff produced as if it were the easiest thing in the world, which in a way it was – at that time.

Bon Scott was a sly knowing presence, he was a little older than the rest of the band, and gave the appearance of having the time of his life. And he sang about bad times as well as good, and in a way that locked directly into what can be considered a genuinely working class discourse – for better and worse.

But it’s the songs as well, displaying a wit in the lyrics, an economy and unexpected nuance (the guitar lines in ‘What’s Next to the Moon’, the pulsing bass on ‘Down Payment Blues’ or the laid back riff in ‘Gone Shootin”) and a power that propels them forward. And again, look at the times. These songs are for the most part short, none overstays its welcome. And one stone classic in the shape of ‘Sin City’.


Sin City

What’s Next to the Moon

Gone Shootin’

Gimme A Bullet

Downpayment Blues

Sin City (live)


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