There’s the running joke about AC/DC making the same album a dozen times, but while it elicits a nod and a chuckle, it misses an important point; that’s what we want AC/DC to do. No one has ever asked them to redefine who they are, to play anything but riff based rock and roll. That’s who they are, that’s why people love them, and that’s all anyone wants. Getting more of the same isn’t a bad thing when it’s good.
The problem AC/DC has had is that, by and large, they haven’t released good records for most of the last twenty-five years. They always manage to write one or two great songs each time, but the records themselves are underwhelming, which only plays into the hands of the stereotype. What the band needs is to write a great record, to reignite the passion people have for their music, to remind us all of why their sound is legendary.
“Rock Or Bust” won’t do any of that.
Instead, this album will only bring to mind questions of whether the band should have gone on without Malcolm Young, because without him the band sounds tired, lifeless, and out of ideas. Everything about “Rock Or Bust” is what you would expect out of the band, but it’s all done with such little quality that it’s hard to take very seriously. At just thirty-five minutes long, the good news is that you won’t be disappointed for long. The bad news is that this could be the last AC/DC record, and it’s a terrible way to go out. There isn’t a single powerful anthem here, not like “Highway To Hell”, not like “Back In Black”, not even like “Rock and Roll Train”.
This album sounds like what happens when an AC/DC cover band is allowed to make a record. It’s a pale imitation of the real thing, and a flaccid addition to the band’s catalog. The sound is excellent, and Angus continues to have the greatest guitar tone in history, but that’s about all the record has going for it. It doesn’t rock, no matter how many songs are dedicated to the subject, and it’s not catchy either. It’s turgid music, or maybe it’s more accurate to call it old.
AC/DC is an old band, and they sound it here. We can only hope this isn’t the last album they make, because it would be going out with a quiet whimper.