Search This Blog

Thursday, February 4, 2010

AC/DC: For Those About To Rock


1) For Those About To Rock; 2) Put The Finger On You; 3) Let's Get It Up; 4) Inject The Venom; 5) Snowballed; 6) Evil Walks; 7) C.O.D.; 8) Breaking The Rules; 9) Night Of The Long Knives; 10) Spellbound.

Back In Black certainly brought in a lot of money and, more importantly, a lot of confidence, but its success was arguably a bit too much for the band. There was no reason whatsoever for AC/DC to be turned into a household name: somebody who regularly puts out songs on the level of 'Hells Bells' can hardly be expected to become a permanent mainstay in the home of the average Joe. But the devil did play this ingenious trick on humanity, and, as if having woken up from a deep, semi-decade-long slumber, people were rushing out to stores for more AC/DC product. Back In Black did not even have enough time to go all the way to No. 1 in the US, but its follow-up, For Those About To Rock, did. Ironically so, because it is one of the band's worst records.

Since it only makes sense to measure AC/DC albums on the riff-o-meter, the verdict is inesca­pable: there is not a single great riff here, nowhere in sight. Nowhere. Most of the time, this is just lumbering mid-tempo bluesy sludge, not even properly fit for headbanging. At best, the cho­ruses are catchy — how can they not be catchy, when each one consists of repeating the song title four times in a row? — but the music is unimaginably unimaginative. Almost as if the band were simply too busy scooping up all the accolades, and decided, instead of a proper new record, to put out a bunch of outtakes from the Back In Black sessions.

Where Back In Black yielded at least three or four immortal classic tunes of the you-know-which genre, its follow-up has one — the title track, which picks up at the exact same spot where 'Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise Pollution' dropped us off the train one year ago. And even that one is not so much immortal because of its melody (which is just as rote and unmemorable as everything else on the record), but because of its pompous, bloated anthemic character. Yes: Brian Johnson delivers the grand line 'For those about to rock — we salute you!' with plenty of flash, and the cannon blasts add a rare unexpected touch (particularly exciting when they bring them out onstage). But it is my deep conviction that rock anthems are one thing, and National Anthems are another, and that the aes­thetics of the two should not be mixed. Somehow, in the Bon Scott days, the band used to under­stand that, and made 'Let There Be Rock' into a classic example of a true rock anthem — one that speaks through kick-ass energy and ironic delivery, not through pom­pous screeching and generic power chords that do not add up to anything distinctly meaningful.

There is little desire on my part to discuss individual songs. Two that may, as far as my opinion goes, rise above the overall sludgy dreck are the ones that you have to wait for the longest time. Side A ends with 'Snowballed', the only — get this: the only — fast rocker on the entire album, far from their best, but definitely a highlight on this morbid collection. And Side B ends with the phonetically similarly titled 'Spellbound', which is also mid-tempo sludge, but unexpectedly dar­ker and grimmer than most of the Johnson-era tracks: for some reason, for this last track they pre­ferred to drop all the glaring sexual innuendos, all the show-off-ey worship of Rock'n'Roll, all the cartoonish Satanism, and simply write a song about internal torment. I am not sure that, during this moment of glory, Brian Johnson really felt 'spellbound, my world is tumbling down', but he is definitely convincing.

Everything else is decidedly for the seasoned fan only. But rest assured: the guitars are loud and crunchy, each song has a mad Angus solo, and this is the second of only three records in AC/DC history where Brian still had the full power of his sonic tank. Even Rolling Stone originally fell for the trick, finally pandering to the record-buying public's tastes and providing AC/DC with the first truly glowing review — and, what the heck, anyone would probably give For Those About To Rock a glowing review if it were the first or second AC/DC album he/she'd ever heard in their life. But were we to entirely ignore context, we might as well sit tight and cozy with our «Greatest Hits» and «Best Of» collections instead.

An almost surreal idea is that they may have intentionally recorded a sub-par LP in order to solidify and purify their fanbase, so that only the steadfast and loyal would remain, and all the desperate housewives expecting another 'You Shook Me All Night Long' would go back to their proper lives, feeding on Boston and Styx. If so, they succeeded admirably: once For Those Abo­ut To Rock hit its No. 1 and everyone actually started listening to it, their commercial sta­tus would start dropping immediately, while the quality of the music would, surprisingly, start grow­ing again. But that is just a mad, mad thought: the Young brothers are no Bob Dylan, after all. Consciously shunning the limelight? I must be crazy. But a decisive thumbs down in any case.


  1. The hardest ac/dc ever got. Shame you two didn't get this album.

  2. Finally, someone who dislikes this album. I was a bit shocked how, on your old site, you had their Australian debut as their worst album, when this one is far worse (something you now seem to realize).