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Thursday, December 17, 2009

AC/DC: T.N.T.


AC/DC: T.N.T. (1975)

1) It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll); 2) Rock'n'Roll Singer; 3) The Jack; 4) Live Wire; 5) T.N.T.; 6) Rocker; 7) Can I Sit Next To You Girl; 8) High Voltage; 9) School Days.

From a certain point of view, AC/DC never made a better album than T.N.T. Logic? Simple. It is unquestionably an improvement over High Voltage, as they throw out everything that promises to screw up the winning formula — pompous guitar duels, love balladry, glammy stuff like 'Show Business' — and concentrate exclusively on what they do best: balls-out, crunchy, sweaty RAWK that gives no quarter and shows no compromise. And since, from here onwards, this description perfectly fits every other AC/DC album, it is impossible to argue that any single one of them — even Highway To Hell and Back In Black — shows AC/DC in artistically finer form than they shaped themselves into by late 1975.

Perhaps only 'Can I Sit Next To You Girl', a re-recording of the band's first single which they'd released back in 1974 with Dave Evans as lead singer, and Chuck's 'School Days', the last cover they ever did, still point one little finger backwards. But even so, one needs only compare the ori­ginal version of 'Can I...' — tiny and whiny — with the new one to understand that there is no going back to the original "glammy" image these young punks tried on in 1974.

You actually learn everything and more about AC/DC during the first twenty seconds of the al­bum. Malcolm starts out with the basic riff: simple, rough, brutal, with a guitar tone that seems fairly ordinary — but what is it that makes it so uniquely recognizable? Over just a few bars, you begin headbanging (if you're alone) or toe-tapping (if you have company) or headbanging and toe-tapping (if you have a company of AC/DC fans). A few seconds later, join­ed by Angus: same tone, same brutality, but a countermelody, something to bring the song out of the pure realm of headbanging bait into the realm of exciting rock'n'roll. Finally, the drums kick in, only to make you realize in astonishment that all this time, you've been violently headbanging to a song whose rhythm was not even emphasized by a steady drum pattern. But now it's here, and it's steady as a rock, and now they are the true Gods of this style.

The rest is a bunch of nuances, only serving the purpose of distinguishing one album from the other in some way at least. On T.N.T., nuances include: Bon Scott's notorious bagpipe solo on 'It's A Long Way To The Top', arguably the only time they ever used an extra instrument in the studio or onstage; the ridiculously ultra-fast tempo on 'Rocker', as they try to generate absurdly over-the-top excitement, making the rockingest rocker that ever rocked; and the corny 'oi! oi! oi!' bursts on the title track, delivered by the Young brothers as Bon Scott's powerload threatens to explode. We also have 'The Jack', which, depending on your tastes, may contain the corniest or the wittiest double-entendres of the 1970s ('her deuce was wild, but my ace was high'); I used to belong to the former group before understan­ding that this must have been Bon's heartfelt tribute to the salacious blues greats of the pre-war era, and thus it works all the better by being AC/DC's starkest 12-bar blues number in the catalog, minimalistic as hell — even the chorus consists of nothing but 'she's got the jack!' repeated over and over again.

Finally, T.N.T. must be the most anthemic album recorded by the band: 'It's A Long Way To The Top' and 'High Voltage' are both heartfelt hymns to rock'n'roll and rock'n'roll lifestyle as such, while 'Rocker' and 'Rock'n'Roll Singer' (I think I spot a trend here, don't you?) are odes to parti­cular bearers of that lifestyle. Future records would generally be restricted to just one louder-than-life statement per album, but T.N.T., of course, is a powerload. Thumbs up for both historical (raising ass-kicking standards sky-high) and personal (bagpipe fan!) reasons.

3 comments:

  1. A little heavier (and louder) than 'High Voltage' and gives off hints at what ac/dc would become in the next couple of years.

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  2. Obviously I am too dumb for AC/DC. I don't hear the difference between It's a long Way and say Highway to Hell. Same boring drum pattern. Same monotonous bass play. Similar simple, repetitive, somewhat catchy riff. Same nice vocals. Similar excellent guitar solo.
    Rocker is not fast.
    Communication Breakdown is fast. Fireball is fast. Light in the Black is fast.
    Rocker is up tempo.
    And of course has an excellent guitar solo.

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    Replies
    1. Too dumb for AC/DC? Love the wit of that statement. It's also interesting that you think Bon's vocals are "nice." To me, he has a slightly unflattering nasal quality to his screech that can be annoying in large doses.

      On another note, apparently I'm too dumb for Nirvana as they're another band that had a huge (and even bigger) impact than AC/DC without doing much in the way of innovation or even complex musicianship. And their lyrics, despite the "genius" that everyone claims is present, are rhyming gibberish that even Cobain himself stated that people were reading too much into. But I digress.

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