AC/DC: LET THERE BE ROCK (1977)
Pay attention how nearly each and every song on this album begins with a little dry guitar «click» sound, sometimes accompanied with a muffled, but intentionally preserved, initial countdown. It is a unique thing for Let There Be Rock: already on Powerage, all the intros would be made thoroughly clean. So it is symbolic, and the best guess is that the band is telling us that, having found its schtick on the previous two albums, it has now found its sound.
Because if AC/DC ever did make the transition from «hard rock» to «metal», or any other sort of sound-related transition if these terms do not suit us, this is the spot. Malcolm and Angus add a rough, leaden touch to their guitars, going for more distortion and «dirt», and realize the headbanger's dream: a sound so fat and crunchy that, when played at the proper volume, it never fails to bring out your devil if only God did not forget to endow you with one.
The album is not without problems. Some of the songs have lazy riffs — 'Go Down' recalls their least inspired blues-rock romps, 'Overdose' has never even once surfaced as a live recording, 'Dog Eat Dog' is equally so-so, and, for some sort of silly censorship reason, the classic number 'Crabsody In Blue', worth it for the title alone, has never surfaced on the international version of the record, instead replaced by a slightly shortened version of 'Problem Child'. This is depressing, especially given that the whole album hosts but eight numbers.
Still, fillerish as they are, all of these songs rock as well, and none of them spoil one's appetite for the classics. 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be' has one of the band's most memorable «angular» riffs going for it, and a great cool 'Hey you! Yeah, you!' from Bon at the start. The title track and 'Whole Lotta Rosie' are acknowledged classics, both for their mock-anthemic quality and the utmost level of madness that Angus achieves with his solos, literally the musical equivalents of a fire team drowning your burning house or car in avalanches of foam; at the end of 'Whole Lotta Rosie', one risks the real danger of suffocating, since there is every chance of you forgetting how to breathe under the onslaught of the younger Young's incessant pummeling.
But, upon being heavily saturated with the two hits, my heart chooses to belong elsewhere. Where 'Bad Boy Boogie' is frequently viewed as merely a cool element in the band's stage show — it is that number during which Angus does his strip show — I have gradually come to the conclusion that it might simply be the AC/DC song. Everything about it is perfect to perfection. The noisy intro, and how the song's riff grows out of it. The riff itself — simple, bluesy, amazing in its austerity, triggering your inner rhythms like crazy. Bon Scott as the ideal man to blurt out the message: 'It was the seventh day, I was the seventh son — and it scared the hell out of everyone!' The breathtaking pause before Angus rips into the solo. The lengthy one-note passage. The deception as the drums kick back into full gear, only to disappear entirely a few bars later. The build-up back to the main melody, by which time — notice? — the riff has actually changed, but did not lose any of its power. Mark Evans' crescendo on the bass, piling up high high high until Bon relaunches the vocal part. In terms of how much is going on, it may be the band's most complex creation, ever, and yet it is still perfectly fit for the hormone level of a seventh grader, a masterpiece of insulting brutality.
Let There Be Rock is an arrogant, but perfect title. Presumptuously, it almost seems to imply that before it there was no rock as such, and that it is only now that this pack of sacrilegious Australians, playing God, allow it to come into existence. (Presumption seriously confirmed by the video that accompanied the title track, in which Bon is seen dressed as a preacher and Angus, oh good heavens, is playing with a self-made halo stuck on his head). Of course, Bon's lyrics, hilariously retelling the story of the birth of rock'n'roll, would seem to contradict that. But whoever listens to AC/DC for the lyrics, hilarious as they might be?
Come to think of it — from a certain point of view at least, they may be right. Certainly rock had never ever sounded quite like this, and, more importantly, it has never ever sounded more «rock» than this. In the whole history of popular music after 1977, no one has ever written a song that rocks — in the simplest, commonest, basest sense of the term, not in its intellectualized perversion — harder than 'Whole Lotta Rosie'. So, «let there be rock» indeed. Thumbs up without a single question asked, even despite all the filler.