Where’s the party?

Pub date November 25, 2008
WriterMike McGuirk
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

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The best time to hear AC/DC — besides during the obvious coked-out, high-speed cop chase — is at a party. At least this is my personal fave: during a party I’m throwing and controlling the music being played.

I love the part of the night when it is appropriate to put on the first AC/DC song, really loud. It has to be pretty late — when the strangers start filing in, cigarettes are being smoked everywhere, and the rules have been tossed out. People need to be drunk enough to dance to AC/DC, after all — and the first song has to be "It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)."

The problem here is that once you start playing AC/DC, you have nowhere to go. You’ve reached the ceiling as far as loud rock ‘n’ roll music goes, from here you have to get into crazy metal or ubernoise in order to keep the bar set in the red. And if you play Pig Destroyer, even though the middle of the song might be awesome, awesome, awesome, by the time you get there, you’ve alienated almost everybody. So some restraint is necessary. I used to actually think about this while DJing parties and I eventually came up with the answer: what you do is play more AC/DC.

You start with Bon Scott-era stuff — a little "Jailbreak," "Beating Around the Bush," "Live Wire," and "Sin City" — then you drop Brian Johnson’s flat, cap-lidded bleat and the high-tech production of "Thunderstruck" on them. You’re now free to play "Safe in New York City," "Sink the Pink," anything — just stay away from "You Shook Me All Night Long," because you may as well play Bob Seger’s "Old Time Rock and Roll." And you gotta put on "Moneytalks" at some point.

AC/DC has a new album, titled Black Ice (Columbia). This is studio album 15 and is officially available for purchase either directly through the group’s Web site or at Wal-Mart. I didn’t get a promo copy of it and I don’t really shop at Wal-Mart much, except to get their spicy wings, which are fantastic, but I was able to hear some of the songs on YouTube, so I can give a somewhat informed review of the album. Like I said, I found the stuff on YouTube, but I didn’t watch the video for lead single, "Rock ‘n’ Roll Train," because, well, I love AC/DC, but even I have to admit that Angus Young wearing a school kid uniform as he approaches AARP eligibility is a little embarrassing.

I mean, the poor guy, he’s been duck-walking around the stage and over-performing for 40 years practically! Doesn’t it get to be like forced labor after a while? After, say, 30 years? Yipes.

Anyway here goes: the songs on Black Ice start with a bass line, then one guitar picks up the rhythm riff, then after exactly eight bars, the second guitar comes in, echoing the riff. Four bars pass, and the drums come in along with Brian Johnson screeching about women that could only have existed in the 1980s — "She’ll burn your eyeballs out," "she’s got it all," "she has two great danes on a leash," etc. Young peels off a blaring solo that erupts at exactly the right time, the chorus is repeated — peppered by "honey"s and "hey-hey"s from Johnson — and it all fades out. For my money, the tried-and-true formula works best on "Skies on Fire" and "Big Jack," which is about a guy who’s really got the knack and also never goes anywhere without a sack.

OK, the guys in AC/DC aren’t geniuses, and maybe they’ve been at it a little too long, but the formula still works, it always will, and Black Ice — like just about every one of their records — is not meant to be sat around with and listened to. The idea is to play it at parties, and you’re not supposed to look too closely at it. The idea is to let it wash over you. *


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