You've Never Heard 'Back In Black'?!
Note: this is a recurring series in which we ask our unimaginably young interns to review classic albums they've never heard before. Our current intern at All Songs Considered is Meg Ruddick.
by Meg Ruddick
AC/DC's Back in Black is basically what I expected it to be: Every song is a fist-pumping ode to sex, booze, teenage rebellion and, of course, the devil. Today, the music is a bit of a rock 'n' roll cliche (and ridiculous), but it must have been fresh and fun back in 1980.
For me, AC/DC sits somewhere between great, scorching, Led Zeppelin-esque blues-rock and one of my least favorite genres: '80s hair metal. As with Led Zeppelin, I'm swept up in the power of the music, the heavy guitar riffs and the passionate strain of the singer's voice. But, as with hair metal, it's hard for me to handle the impossibly high, screamy voice after just a few songs. Listening to Brian Johnson sing makes my own throat hurt.
Though I'm not a big fan of the vocals, I do love the guitar. Angus Young's blistering riffs and abbreviated solos define what rock guitar should sound like. You can't deny the swagger of the opening of the title track, "Back in Black," or the simple, anthemic lyrics that perfectly match that swagger. They hold thinly veiled metaphors that are fun and a bit shocking when you give it some thought. "Givin' the Dog a Bone" -- talk about imagery! Teenage, rebel-yell "Shake a Leg" was my favorite track on Back in Black, and the closer, "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution" delivers one of the best lines on the album: "Rock 'n' roll is just rock 'n' roll." That basically sums up Back in Black: This is rock 'n' roll, plain and simple.
So does Back in Black hold up after nearly 30 years? Yes and no. At first listen, I honestly wasn't impressed. I thought the songs were too basic, too stale. But they're also a lot of fun, and I think the setting really makes a difference. I'm sure the album would sound better if I were singing along while driving with friends to a concert, or surrounded by screaming fans in a sweaty nightclub, instead of just sitting behind my desk with headphones on. So despite the fact that it helped spawn some of my least favorite music, I did like Back in Black. No doubt it will keep rock 'n' roll fans entertained for generations to come.
11:14 AM ET | 10-15-2009 | permalink