Ballbreaker (1995)

1. Hard as a Rock 2. Cover You in Oil 3. The Furor 4. Boogie Man 5. The Honey Roll 6. Burnin' Alive 7. Hail Caesar 8. Love Bomb 9. Caught With Your Pants Down 10.Whiskey on the Rocks 11.Ballbreaker


It had been a whopping five years since the last studio release, 1990’s The Razor’s Edge, and when the band returned to the spotlight, hard core fans were delighted while others laughed it off while shaking their heads. What’s somewhat ironic is that there were a lot of bands that were in their prime way back in the seventies that were reuniting during the nineties and many people thought “Cool! The old-timers are reuniting!” Well, what practically no one could possibly imagine was that these old-timers, along with many of their counterparts would still be churning out records and touring two decades later. This record is not really a “return to form”, they’re attempting to shake things up a bit. I would argue that their new sound is very appealing, but the actual songs are, like most latter day AC/DC album, a mixed bag.

They team up with another producer extraordinaire, Rick Rubin. For whatever reason, though, the relationship never quite gelled and this record failed to meet “Rubin like” expectations. This album sounds a tad more serious then what one is used to. The dueling guitars of the Young brothers sound much more low on the music scale as if they’re “scorching” as opposed to “screeching”. They seem to be infusing some heavier-blues like sounds as well, and even some of the lyrics sound a bit more grown up. With all of these changes, however, the main thing that must remain consistent is that AC/DC needs to sound like AC/DC. This means that the songs still need to be filled with lewd sex, double (and single) entendres, Brian Johnson’s wailing vocals, and an overall party like atmosphere. They actually manage all this quite well, and there are a handful of very strong songs.

The two somewhat “serious” songs (take the word “serious” with a small grain of salt. This is AC/DC, remember) Hail Caesar and The Furor are two of the richest cuts here. The former is a somewhat political song, and the latter is….well….also a somewhat political song. I think. Anyway, the most interesting thing on this record is Boogie Man that when I first heard it, I could have sworn it was a ZZ Top song. Brian Johnson even starts the first few lines singing several octaves lower making his voice darn near unrecognizable. Again, though, those responsible make sure that the tune still has the AC/DC brand, so one never feels alienated with the new, harder songs.

To be fair, though, there’s a lot here that simply does not work. A large bunch of these tracks may sound interesting during the first thirty seconds, but the novelty wears off rather quickly. It’s as if they came up with a rather interesting riff, but couldn’t keep the momentum going throughout an entire four minutes. Songs such as The Honey Roll, Cover You in Oil and Whiskey on the Rocks just become a tad too boring after the first minute or so. This, however, would tend to be a pattern for this band during their latter days. No matter what “sound” they were chasing, there would be some hits and some misses. This album is about evenly split. It was still nice, however, to see that they were still together after they had been a band now for (-gasp!-) twenty years.

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