Ben Winch's Album Review
AC/DC man! Their genius is so close to idiocy it’s amazing. Malcolm Young especially—he’s got the lizard-mind. Maybe intellectually his riffs are nothing special, but backed by Phil Rudd and Cliff Burton or George Young they’re incendiary. To be fair, Powerage is the smartest album of AC/DC’s career. “Down Payment Blues” is a minimalist epic, probably Malcolm’s finest five minutes, along with the incredible adrenalin-fuelled “Riff Raff” and the abstract “What’s Next to the Moon”, whose open-string arpeggio is so simple and beautiful you wonder how no-one else thought of it. Ditto “Gimme a Bullet”—now that is mindless, but pump-your-fists-in-the-air perfect, and not a guitar solo in earshot. (It doesn’t need one: George’s walking bass takes the lead, with once-in-a-career results.) “Sin City” ain’t half bad neither, and it’s where Bon Scott comes to the fore: “Bring on the dancing girls and put the champagne on ice.” (Though it’s “Down Payment Blues” that’s the message song, one of Bon’s most heartfelt moments: “No I ain’t doin’ much but doin’ nothing means a lot to me.”) If ever a band was more than the sum of its parts it was AC/DC: isolate any one of these performances—Malcolm’s blunt power-chords, Cliff’s droning bass, Phil’s utilitarian four-on-the-floor, Bon’s three-note melodies—and listeners could well be mystified. Of course there’s Angus, a stone-cold virtuoso, but those who think AC/DC is his show are missing the point. He’s the gravy. Malcolm and the boys are the meat. “Gone Shootin’”, now that is genius, the kind of groove you just know Keith Richards’d love to muscle in on. Oh, and “Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation”—about as Stonesy as they ever got. Apparently it was added last when the record company said there were no hits on the album, and it ain’t bad: great sound, even if the riff’s a little tired. But make no mistake, “Riff Raff” is the hit here. If a shuttle gets sent to space with an AC/DC song onboard and it ain’t “Riff Raff” I’m going after it. 100% brutal full-blooded groove rock’n’roll. Powerage is a dream you don’t wake up from. Career-defining genius. Pure gold.