AC/DC

Stiff Upper Lip (Elektra)

Let's dispense with the easy digs first: Each member of AC/DC is probably old enough to be your grandpa. And at that age, the schoolboy getup preferred by Aussie axmeister Angus Young is less cute than disturbing, as are the sounds put forth by the presumably scarred mass that once was frontman Brian Johnson's vocal cords. Fortunately Lip places less aural emphasis on Johnson's pummeled pipes than on the type of thunderous riffs and rock-solid rhythms that have made AC/DC a band of choice for an entire generation of now thirtysomething headbangers.

Such listeners will thrill to cuts such as the CD's title track, a three-and-a-half-minute slab of loud, leering fun designed to appeal to the perpetual adolescent in all of us (OK, nearly all of us). Equally effective is the swaggering, spunky "Give It Up," which closes this 12-song collection. Between these selections, however, the group's attempts to recapture former glories rarely meet with more than middling results. For example the high-voltage licks that propel "House of Jazz," though serviceably slinky, have about as much to do with jazz as does Jesse Helms.

Somewhat more satisfying is "Satellite Blues," which recalls but never quite rises to the sonic simplicity of AC/DC anthems such as "Back in Black." Less forgivable are "Hold Me Back" and "Can't Stand Still," both of which sound like second-rate versions of "Thunderstruck," a fairly recent tune that even the most die-hard Bic-flicker will concede is no "You Shook Me." And while the CD's aforementioned redundancies are merely annoying, "Come and Get It," which sports a plodding tempo and a group-yell chorus that's obviously too deep in pitch for the bandmembers attempting to bark it out, is downright laughable.

Other problems with this disc include the fact that, through more than half of it, Angus' solos are uncharacteristically restrained. Of course it's unrealistic to expect the guitarist's digits to remain as agile as they were in 1978. And to be fair, the songs Angus and his mates were cranking out in previous decades have left a pretty potent party-rock legacy for the band to live up to.

But that fact only makes the majority of this disc all the sadder: In one particularly unimaginative chorus, Johnson shrieks the line, "You can't stop rock and roll." Maybe not but AC/DC has clearly reached the point where perhaps someone should at least try.

 
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