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  • Thank god Bruce Fairburn died and Rick Rubin stepped in as producer. Thank god Chris Slade, the human (?) drum-machine, was replaced by TRUE AC/DC drummer, Phil Rudd. Thank god the boys got their balls back on Ballbreaker, making it their best album since 1983’s Flick of the Switch. Anyone that says that gutless slick pop album, The Razor’s Edge, is AC/DC’s “comeback” doesn’t know what AC/DC is about. True fans love raw, no nonsense albums like Powerage and Flick of the Switch. Ballbreaker is such an album. When songs like “Hard As A Rock” and “Cover You In Oil” are the singles, you know the boys aren’t giving a *@#! about moving units (the album broke the Top-Ten despite their efforts). Ballbreaker is so many things. First, it’s a big demonic tongue stuck out to those pop-kids that were expecting another “Moneytalks”. This album is the antithesis of pop. That’s why so many people, even so-called rock fans, put it down. Yeah, Ballbreaker doesn’t get much love. That’s because there are a lot of watered-down punks who don’t keep it real and don’t know soul/power from a snappy tune. They knock Ballbreaker for being juvenile and gross. That’s what’s so great about it! AC/DC prove on Ballbreaker that just because they were now middle-aged, it didn’t mean they were going to get all tasteful and *@#!. God, I HATE taste! Nothing can spoil rock & roll more than taste. AC/DC understands this. They also understand the blues, which is the heart of rock & roll. So many people have a misconception about the blues because of these cornyass crackers like Eric Clapton or pick your pseudoass “blues-guitarist” that does a little 12-bar and bottleneck and suddenly thinks he’s in the Delta. They want to canonize the blues, make it respectable and put it in a museum. The blues isn’t just African-American folk music that expressed hardship; the blues is raw, lascivious and diabolical music. It’s Howlin’ Wolf growling about “evil”. It’s Muddy Waters, with some jagged nasty hooks, telling you he’s your “hoochie-coochie man”. It’s John Lee Hooker rumbling about “whiskey and wimmen” over a dirty, funky groove. AC/DC know this and Ballbreaker doesn’t just imitate this sprit; it emulates it. Ballbreaker is an EVIL album. Just listen to that breakdown in “Hail Caesar” when Brian Johnson starts singing really low and evil like (similar to the “ladder and snakes” breakdown in “Sin City”). More than any other AC/DC album, Ballbreaker is like their hard blues masterwork, Powerage. Producer Rick Rubin (a true fan) and the return of drummer Phil Rudd help bring that Powerage sound back. The songs aren’t as distinct as the ones on Powerage (or as any of the songs from their peak year 1977-1983 albums). But the power and atmosphere is there. Some people knock Ballbreaker for being too mid-tempo; again, they don’t get that this is primarily dark evil blues. It’s creeping, like. I don’t even think of Ballbreaker so much in terms of “songs”; it’s more like one giant song that keeps kicking your ass. And finally, the main criticism of Ballbreaker, there’s Brian Johnson’s voice. Oh man, people are so wrong on this. His voice is AMAZING on Ballbreaker! I don’t mean “amazing” as in “good”. Brian’s voice is like a shrapnel laden limb on this album. It’s hardly a voice; it’s more of a sound, like another instrument. And that’s just the way to go with it. Brian’s not trying to fool anyone on Ballbreaker. He’s not trying to “sing” per say. Most of those old blues guys didn’t either. They did what Brian does on this album: Growl and spit. He just sounds like a bad, grizzly-mouth mofo. You can smell the cigarettes and whiskey on his voice; you can hear the history of rocking out perhaps too hard on Flick of the Switch. You hear a MAN. Yes, a MAN. A primitive, rocking MAN that’s squinting and bending over. And he rather implode than not give 100% of his machismo. He totally embraces his ruined voice and uses it for all its ragged worth. Somehow it just makes the album sound meaner, more kick ass. This is the closest AC/DC ever came to sounding like an underground act. There’s no pretense here. There’s no nonsense. When you hear that primeval riff in “Ballbreaker” you can’t help thinking of Angus Young riding a Thunder Lizard. Yeah, a Thunder Lizard right over YOU! And Brian is showing a minister’s wife some sinful business in a back alley. Ballbreaker, the album, the song, is the dark monkey pit of Man. And yes, it’s a masterwork.

    Posted on November 17, 2009