Black Ice (2008)

1. Rock 'N' Roll Train 2. Skies on Fire 3. Big Jack 4. Anything Goes 5. War Machine 6. Smash 'N' Grab 7. Spoilin' For a Fight 8. Wheels 9. Decibel 10.Stormy May Day 11.She Likes Rock 'N' Roll 12.Money Made 13.Rock 'N' Roll Dream 14.Rocking All the Way 15.Black Ice


Before this record came out, a lot of people probably figured that these guys were finally through. The band had been putting out records well over 30 years, hadn’t done anything since 2000’s Stiff Upper Lip, and weren’t exactly spring chickens anymore. Well, as is the case with most rock and rollers past their prime, AC/DC wasn’t finished just yet. To make matters worse (or maybe better, depending on your opinion), the guys joined the bandwagon of many popular artists and signed a deal with Wal-Mart that would be the retailer the sole provider of their new CD. Funny how rebellious rock’n’rollers bash retail giants for “killing the music industry” only to jump right on the bandwagon in an effort to quickly cash in. But never mind.

So this record was released exclusively by Wal-Mart and, to my knowledge, wasn’t available in a digital format unlike what many contemporaries were doing. Not surprisingly, the record went straight to number one on the charts. Sadly, this feat was achieved by all of the above said factors and wasn’t really a reflection of the quality of music.

The first five songs or so on this record are actually very good. The next five songs are rather forgetful and mediocre. By the time we get to the last five songs, we’re eagerly wishing that the damn thing would just end. AC/DC is one of those bands that should not put out a 55-minute studio album with 15 cuts. They probably couldn’t have even pulled this off way back in the early 1980s. Never much on originality, the record features a whopping four songs that have the word “rock” in the title. Yes, it does get tiresome.

Brendan O’Brien is the producer this time around, and I’ve never really been a fan of anything that he’s produced. You might think that a producer would be irrelevant with a band as simple as AC/DC, but looking through the band’s albums, you would be sadly mistaken. His biggest sin seems to be that he’s trying too hard to change the band’s brand on several songs. By the time we get to such clunkers as Stormy May Day and/or Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream, we feel like we’re listening to a Bad Company album with Brian Johnson singing lead. Might not be a bad thing if you like a band like Bad Company, but that’s not a club that I’m a member of, nor would I ever want to be. In fact, and I’ve probably already said this on many other reviews of this band’s material, I don’t want them to sound like anything other than AC/DC.

To be fair, about 40% of this record is quite good, it’s just hard to appreciate when surrounded by a lot of mediocrity. When the CD format first appeared in the late 1980s allowing bands to pack more material on, it was initially seen as a good thing. I’m not really sure that’s the case a lot of times. Definitely not on this record. It’s also a bit sad to think that they couldn’t come up with a better set of songs after after being away from the recording studio for eight years.

Oh well. It made money. They toured. They played lots of hits. They sold out arenas. They made people happy. And that’s really what’s it’s supposed to be all about. Right?

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