Published Nov 10, 2020In 2017, it looked like AC/DC, a band synonymous with resilience, was far too fractured and vulnerable to carry on. Within a two year span, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for procuring a murder (and later pleaded guilty to threatening to kill and drug possession), vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to stop touring due to hearing issues, rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young passed away due to dementia and bassist Cliff Williams quit the band, leaving only Angus Young behind to pick up the pieces; the lead guitarist decided to use the same tragedy that split the band apart to help rebuild it, pulling together parts of songs written with his brother to get the whole gang back together and craft new music around it.
The resulting LP, POWER UP (also known as PWR/UP), finds the classic quartet (along with Stevie Young, who replaced his uncle in 2016) ripping through a joyful 12-track power cycle that finds AC/DC as energized as they've sounded in decades.
Recorded at Warehouse Studio in Vancouver with Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen producer, Brendan O'Brien, the 41-minute album has the band deep within a familiar groove. On tracks like the Muscle Shoals-inspired "Through the Mists of Time" and the extremely catchy rocker "Witch's Spell," Johnson sounds absolutely spellbound, delivering a soulful and mighty howl. On the silky single "Shot in the Dark" and the anthemic rocker "Kick You When You're Down," the Youngs come off impossibly tight, while "Demon Fire" and "Wild Reputation" see the band going off-script a bit with growled spoken word pieces courtesy of Johnson, while O'Brien keeps a high level of grit and grind to the entire recording.
While the album understandably contains some filler within its bottom third, POWER UP nonetheless falls securely within AC/DC's great B-level albums; just as solid and memorable as Let There Be Rock or For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).
The fact that AC/DC came together to create something as satisfying as POWER UP when the cards were down is a complete miracle upon itself, and AC/DC seem more than ready to celebrate. (Columbia)