Rock or Bust
Rating: *** 1/2 to **** (3.75)
It might be hard to believe but this year of 2014 marks 40 years since Aussie hard rockers AC/DC formed. To celebrate, the band has decided to release a new studio album and have a tour to follow it in 2015. The new album, Rock or Bust, is the band’s first album since 2008’s Black Ice. However, AC/DC release Rock or Bust with a heavy heart as the band has gone through a major change in their line-up: rhythm guitarist and co-founding member Malcolm Young was forced to retire from the band, having suffered from a stroke earlier this year and is currently being treated for dementia. Replacing Malcolm is Stevie Young, nephew of Malcolm and Angus. Stevie is no stranger to AC/DC, having filled in for Malcolm during the band’s 1988 tour. Despite Malcolm’s absence, Rock or Bust manages to be another good album from AC/DC and celebrates their 40th anniversary well.
The band gets right down to it, opening the album with the title track. With a mean guitar riff from Angus (similar to the one in “Back in Black”) and solid bass line from Cliff Williams, “Rock or Bust” is one of strongest tracks from the album. Singer Brian Johnson sounds great, which is saying a lot considering his age. The lead single, “Play Ball,” is another great song. While the song doesn’t have the greatest lyrics, it’s a short and sweet catchy song. For an album that’s a little under 35 minutes, there’s plenty of things from this album that can be enjoyed. AC/DC sure know how to deliver hard rocking tracks, slow and fast. “Dogs of War” is a slower track with some dark overtones and an edgy sounding chorus while I can already see Angus doing his Chuck Berry duck walks during the rapid-fire “Baptism by Fire.” Speaking of which, Angus really shines on this album. He and Stevie dominate during “Miss Adventure” while he plays some tasty Zeppelin-esque riffs during “Rock the House.” The latter track is so catchy; I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s used at any strip joints!
Rock or Bust does have a few weaknesses. As mentioned before, the album runs at 34 minutes- making the album AC/DC’s shortest. While I praise the band for trying keeping it short (which wasn’t the case for Black Ice: that clocked in at 55 minutes), I still feel like something’s missing. While Black Ice was the longer album, I feel it had better songs. “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” has a nice bass line from Williams but doesn’t go elsewhere while “Sweet Candy” just sounds like a continuation of “Rock the House.” Still, these are small bits of criticism and it doesn’t stop the album from being enjoyable.
Overall, Rock or Bust is a solid album from AC/DC. With that, I will look forward to seeing the band tour next year. However, there might be another line-up change in the future: along with Malcolm’s retirement, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested in New Zealand last month and is now facing threatening to kill and drug possession charges. Despite this, AC/DC has said their touring plans remain unchanged, saying they will go on with or without Rudd. In the meantime, AC/DC fans can enjoy Rock or Bust.