AC/DC. Rock and Roll Simplicity?

Cover of 2020’s “Power Up”

There is beauty in simplicity. AC/DC have been referred to as simplistic. The long-running joke with them has always been that they keep making the same album. The more discerning listener would disagree. Even if the albums all sounded the same, then so what? It’s a formula that has worked well for them. The ride or die fans of the band who love every record can choose any of the discography at random and be happy with the listening experience.

My look at the band has always been with a more critical ear. Bassist Cliff Williams remains one of my absolute favourites of the instrument. In my teens I made a point to learn much of his work and the philosophy behind it. Be a song servant while adding a few accents where they will fit well. Nothing too fancy. He has proved what a person does NOT play is equally important as what they do play. Cliff’s tone and technique represent a heavy rock standard that should be required listening of generations of bass players. I pause here to note that Mark Evans’s contributions are also worthy of respect given his approach and role within the band. In my view, Mark’s tone had some mid-range aspects that still served those early songs quite well.

The question of what are AC/DC’s finest albums will forever be a debatable subject among hard rock fans and purists. Their formula for great heavy rock is consistent and brilliant, but it did not always translate into constituently brilliant songs.

“Back In Black” is the most recognizable album from the AC/DC catalogue. It remains one of the greatest selling albums of all time. It rightfully has a place in music history for its’ global reach. I’m of the opinion that consistent overplay of “You Shook Me All Night Long” has driven away many fans. It was a memorable track for the time with a lasting impact into the nineties. As classic rock radio evolved, it became an easy go-to track to drop into the programming lineups. I’m now at a point where I pass over the track completely when listening to the record.

in my view, “Thunderstruck” from 1990’s “The Razors Edge” is now reaching the same level of overplay that is tagged to “You Shook Me All Night Long”. Razors is the closest AC/DC’s formula resulted in moments where some of the songs sound like they cross over into awkward heavy pop rock. I find the album difficult to listen to and the only one out of their entire history that I will take a complete pass over.

AC/DC have rightfully earned their place in music history based on a simple formula that works. It’s loud and aggressive roots-based hard rock sprayed with bits of molten lava metal. Calling it heavy metal does not fit with some fans but one cannot deny the impact AC/DC continues to have among metal musicians.



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