Back In Black

Back+in+Black+2s16v86

AC/DC (1980)

Any single AC/DC album could qualify for this list, because they were so consistent and because their uniqueness wasn’t really attached to a particular movement or style. I suppose they did make blues rock more metallic, fast and heavy than ever before. But their real breakthrough was the glorious dumbing-down of rock music. Not charming simplicity and humility, a la the Ramones. No, AC/DC pushed the limits of repetition, good taste, heaviness and artistic integrity into the gutter and kept on going. They were an awesome, ass-kicking joke of a band. (Brian Johnson may have taken his persona a bit more seriously than the late charming miscreant Bon Scott, but he never got too full of himself.) The group exaggerated the power of rock, the thrill of sex and drugs and the allure of evil with equal parts smirking self-deprecation, cocksure confidence and playful provocation.

They were also as streamlined as any band could get – their songs reliably rocked hard using the same basic ingredients, no matter what. But they vitally changed the details in entertaining ways, which allows the same shtick to never grow old. Back In Black epitomizes all of this about them – hell, it’s not even a perfect AC/DC record. But then again, it is, because the very attitude of the band necessitates a tiny bit of generic material. And the good stuff is all there – Malcolm and Angus Young’s dueling wall-rattling guitars kicking old-school Chuck Berry riffs into overdrive, Brian Johnson’s ear-piercing wail and bluesy patter, and those ultra-simple, head-bobbing bass and drum parts. Many groups would later take their excess as a baseline and make mainstream rock even more ridiculous, but AC/DC mixed menace, sarcasm, and catchiness better than any of those bands. 

Key track: “Shoot To Thrill”

See also: T.N.T. – AC/DC (1975), Highway To Hell – AC/DC (1979)

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