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AC/DC still rock out despite misfortune

The arpeggiando variant of the venerable contralto that graced the Sibelius… Oh, my bad! Wrong review.

It's time for the dude in the school uniform and his latest crunching Carry On-style collection of cataclysmic riff carnage. Cartoon boogie, maybe. But undeniably designed to turn whole continents into landscapes of nodding numbskulls with an eye to perpetual weekend partying. And, sure, what else would you be at.

Played loud, this umpteenth studio set from the band who took Chuck Berry's delinquent rock'n'roll formula, and stripped it of all possible musical or lyrical excess, has the power to induce involuntary outbreaks of a condition resembling Sydenham's Chorea or, as we non-medical punters call it, Saint Vitus Dance.

Casual observers might miss the significance of this album's defiant title. So it's worth explaining that, as rock'n'roll boogies through its seventh decade as a beguiling and transformative art form, we've become all too familiar with the sudden departure of many main players through a list of tragic terminal closures ranging from gang hits to misadventure or rogue medical complaints. Not to mention the occasional bizarre gardening accident.


AC/DC are no strangers to the chilly hand of the Grim Reaper. Having blasted their way into contention with a series of piledrivin' albums in the 1970s, the band was dealt a cruel blow when singer Bon Scott was found dead in a car following a wild night out.

Remarkably, his eventual replacement, Brian Johnson from Geordie, a singer Scott had admired, fitted the band's style. Back In Black, the first album they recorded together became the band's biggest-seller and is still regarded as one of the finest rock records ever. As Malcolm Young - the guitarist who founded AC/DC and co-wrote the songs with his lead guitarist brother Angus (left) - put it, "Brian cut the mustard." And he still does.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Malcolm was suffering from dementia and would no longer be involved with the band. Today, he's in care, has forgotten how to play guitar and hasn't heard these 11 tracks, all of which are based on riffs or roughs from his and his brother's repertoire of work-in-progress.

Cousin Steve took over from Malcolm and nailed the trademark AC/DC rivet-gun style.

Since then drummer Phil Rudd was arrested on drugs and threat-to-kill charges and has been in court again this week.

The single, Play Ball, takes up where The Stones' Start Me Up leaves off. Destined for all those year-end sports highlights on TV, it's the shamelessly perfect soundtrack for a night at the bar in some dingy club.

It doesn't do to be overly critical of this sonic behemoth. Even if a few tracks seem less than inspired,there's still plenty of greasy fun to be had in a Beavis and Butt-head fashion.

They still make music that inspires people to get a driving licence and hit the highway with the top down and stereo up. HHHII