Power Up, stylized PWR/UP, is iconic rock n’ roll legends AC/DC’s seventeenth full length album, and probably their last. Most recently they had been touring with Axl Rose as a seat warmer for Brian Johnson. The iconic front man bowed out in 2016 due to being almost completely deaf, and the next year founding member and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young passed away after having retired in 2014 due to increasing dementia. They had continued to tour, and even released the previous album with nephew Stevie Young filling in the rhythm guitar role, as he does here. Actually, you would be excused for thinking it’s been ages since the last album, but in fact it’s “only” been six years since Rock or Bust (2014) hit the shelves - the same amount of time between that albums predecessor, Black Ice (2008). So by now you might just call it consistency. And it certainly is consistent. The formula has not changed, at all, as entirely expected - but why would it after 45-ish years.
The longest song on here is Rejection, which clocks in at four minutes, six seconds - not a lot of room to go around building exciting narratives. But it’s not like AC/DC were the cerebral man’s pick anyway; you kinda know what they’re about by now. Power Up is about delivering rock solid rock n’ roll solids to fans who were around way back when; giving a face to the tried and true. That said, there are some moments, a few songs, which do stick out just a little bit; a couple of highlights in an album otherwise just like any other the band has released in the last, well, ever. The first half or so is clearly the most inspired part of the album, including single Shot in the Dark (a grower) and the aforementioned Rejection (a shower), and a couple other neat, swingy tracks. Once Demon Fire fades out though, so does the spark that kept the album powered up. While none of the stuff here really has that gut punch old school feel, it’s still very much in AC/DC’s entire spirit; tried and true.
The musicianship as well is just what you’d expect. Angus Young’s guitars have that iconic bluesy twang, the leads catchy and the hooks hooky. His solos aren’t exactly instant big time classics, it’s instead the coordination and interplay between himself and rhythm guitarist Stevie Young that works the best, the two getting that chemistry right this time around, where the previous album seemed a little bland, like Malcolm’s presence was too noticeable. Then there’s the case of formerly stone deaf Brian Johnson. The man is actually pretty impressive on this here album. The geezer’s seventy-goddam-three years old and manages to sound pretty much exactly as he did forty years ago (though age has obviously done a number or two) when he lit the flames and scorched the skies in the electrified, metallic classic Back in Black (1980). Power Up manages to hit that line right there where you can’t really fault it for being what it is; you kind of want it to be a little more - to reach those highs of days of yore - but those toe tapping high points are enough to give it the hall pass. Now take off that uniform Angus, you look ridiculous, you’re sixty-five for crying out loud.
Standout tracks: Rejection, Shot in the Dark, Witch’s Spell