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'Black Ice' brings the heat - just not enough



Blackice_frontcover The old knock is that all AC/DC albums sound alike. But that's a compliment, not a curse, to the hard-rocking lads from Australia.

The band's new disc Black Ice, their first studio offering in eight years, has everything you've come to expect from AC/DC: catchy guitar riffs by Angus and Malcolm Young, pounding drums and bass by Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams, and that never-aging growling howl of singer Brian Johnson.

Is it up to the standards of Highway to Hell and Back in Black from their heyday? No, but those discs remain works of art that aren't likely to be topped anytime soon. Here are some first impressions from Black Ice:

TOP HEAVY: Welcome to the 21st century, where every new CD puts all the hits right up front. I miss the old days of gems sprinkled through side 1 and 2 of vinyl, but I'll settle for likable tunes Rock 'N Roll Train (Video) and Skies of Fire (Listen) being tracks 1 and 2 instead. Figure on those being included in the Black Ice tour setlist.

ANYTHING GOES: Listen to Anything Goes and you'll wonder, "How did a Bryan Adams song get on the disc?" No, it's a Young brothers production, but the riffs are missing and replaced with cutesy choruses and silly little chord-play. "A heavy rocking tune is playing, playing as the night rolls on. Sneaking off with the Romeo, where she goes, nobody knows." It's a pure oddity.

SAY WHAT?: Smash and Grab (listen) is a fun song for a Saturday night of power-drinking, though the lyrics are purely for decoration. "Come on in and just smash, grab and take it while you can. Smash, grab and take it. Hey hey hey yeah!"

THIS SONG IS CALLED ...: Four of 15 songs on the disc have "Rock" in the title. Aside from Rock 'N Roll Train, they're all forgettable. Rock 'N Roll Dream (listen) just puts you to sleep during its unusually long, 4:41 running time. Rocking All the Way (listen) sounds so unremarkable, it will make you think you just heard this cut two songs ago. And for some reason, She Likes Rock 'N Roll (listen) sounds like something off the KISS Destroyer album -- just add face paint, dragon boots and a rising drum platform.

ROCK AND ROOTSY: Stormy May Day surprises with some slide guitar, making it sound like a good theme song for cable Cajun vampire fest True Blood. I'd love to see this performed live and see how it evolves onstage. (Listen)

BUY OR NO BUY: If you're a big-time AC/DC fan, you probably need to own this. Plus, Wal-Mart, which has an exclusive retail lock on the album, has a killer display stand, featuring a ton of retro AC/DC concert shirts and older remastered discs by the band to promote the new disc. So you can upgrade your wardrobe and music collection at the same time.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:40pm]


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