When you become a staple of pop culture, a touchstone for an entire nation’s modern music history, it can be hard to keep up with your own perception. There’s pressure to innovate, to surprise, to keep raising the bar. AC/DC – objectively one of the most successful musical Australian ex-pats of all time – took a six-year break, and have finally returned with their seventeenth studio album POWER UP. The album isn’t innovative, surprising and doesn’t exactly raise the bar.
But that doesn’t matter – it’s exactly what we needed from them.
The opening moments of ‘Realize’ deliver electrifying guitar strum and a signature Brian Johnson wail and everything feels normal once again. “Feel the chills up and down your spine / I’m gonna make you fly,” Johnson sings on the searing chorus. The 11 following tracks deliver on that promise.
It’s an *ahem* electrifying and fiery onslaught of riffs and screams that will feel like a warm hug to those fans of the band’s most recognisable cuts. The finger-breaking riff in ‘Witch’s Spell’ alongside the song’s chanting chorus is ready for arenas the moment they re-open, while the strutting bassline that lacquers ‘Wild Reputation’ pulsates through every extension of your body.
There are also moments on POWER UP that are a little more understated, by Acca Dacca standards anyway. The best part of ‘Kick You When You’re Down’ is the relatively sparse guitar strums that anchor the first half of the song before the band unleashes in the outro. Album highlight ‘Through The Mists Of Time’ sees the band reflect on their legacy in a way they never have in song before. “See dark shadows, On the walls, See the pictures, Some hang, some fall,” Johnson sings, pondering both the band’s storied past and their mortality.
Look, there’s nothing particularly shocking about POWER UP. This is a band who have stuck to the same formula for five decades, very rarely straying from it. But, when you’ve played as many arenas and broken as many records as AC/DC have, there’s no need. Any change of direction from the band at this point would not only feel forced, but disjointed. The beauty in AC/DC is that they’re reliable – fans always know what they’re getting into, and POWER UP is no different. It’s strong, it’s invigorating and it’s a testament to the legacy the band have built for so many years and the legacy that will continue to beam long after the lights go out.
‘POWER UP’ is out now. Listen here.