AC/DC: DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP (1976)
1) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap; 2) Love At First Feel; 3) Big Balls; 4) Rocker; 5) Problem Child; 6) There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'; 7) Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round To Be A Millionnaire); 8) Ride On; 9) Squealer.
It is hard to write a PhD thesis around this album. I would like to call it «rushed», but chronologically, it does not look rushed — the band's only new record in 1976, all the more puzzling since it gives out a very strong impression of having been stuffed from top to bottom with rejected outtakes from T.N.T. At the very least, it simply does not improve on anything.
Unquestionably it does contain two absolute classics. 'Rocker' has the distinction of being the fastest number in the band's catalog, and winds their obsession with basic rockabilly up to such an absurdist level that, once they recorded it, they never ever returned to rockabilly — what sense would it make if you have already created the ultimate experience? Angus' solos, in places, remind me of Alvin Lee's hyperbolic madness on 'I'm Going Home', and the two songs do have a lot in common, except AC/DC, of course, sound much more like naughty schoolboys. In concert, they would rather unreasonably stretch the number out to six or ten minutes of tomfoolery, including Angus riding through the crowd on Bon's shoulders while soloing, yet I prefer the terse, compact three-minute version. Rock'n'roll at its drunkest.
And, of course, we have the title track — all Bon's realm, even though the primary riff is also a sort of minimalistic treasure. Rather daring for its time (I guess only in Australia, the happy homeland of the chain-gang, could you so easily get away with singing 'I lead a life of crime' in such a cheery, gleeful tone), and even today quite a strong vehicle for titillating the brain, despite all those new levels of lyrical straightforwardness that we have gained access to since 1976. The band gives him a strong backing, too — the moment when the Young brothers lower their voices, grumbling 'dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap, dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap' may be the most hilarious seven seconds in the band's history.
Against the background of these crazy/evil masterpieces, the rest just comes out in a rather bleak perspective. 'Ride On' is slow, moody, bluesy, and unusually sentimental — must be a great favourite among ardent Bon lovers, as it gives a little glimpse of his vulnerability — but it is not a style that suits the band well. 'Problem Child' has a great coda, in fact, one of the band's first great codas (watch out for Angus' head-spinning trills at the very end), but the song itself is only so-so. Seven minutes of hollow jamming on 'Ain't No Fun' are openly boring — they try to make another anthemic piece in the vein of 'It's A Long Way To The Top', but the riffage is clearly derivative of the former and not as hard-hitting, and oh my God, seven minutes is just too much. 'Big Balls', to me, indicates that Bon's stream of successful double entendre's is running dry (do you think that lines like 'it's my belief that my big balls should be held every night' constitute some sort of smutty genius? I have my doubts about that). Etc., etc., etc.
So I will take a little risk here and say that, for all it's worth, Dirty Deeds merits a thumbs down. The two classics should be salvaged and treasured, like Pooh's pots of honey from the flood, but the rest is quite subpar by the band's usual standards. Why that is, I don't know, but there is such a thing as occasional loss of focus, or, as philologists say, an occasional fuss of locus, which is basically the same thing.