Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that AC/DC were in the midst of a slump while recording the “Fly On The Wall” album which was originally released in June of 1985. The band had taken over the production reins for their 1983 predecessor “Flick of the Switch”, and they elected once again to not bring in an outside producer for “Fly…” which was produced by Angus & Malcolm. And as strong of an album as “Flick…” is, this one is even better.
Yes, Brian Johnson’s voice had lost something by this point–his vocals here just don’t soar and rattle off the walls the way they do on the previous couple albums. Angus and Malcolm seemingly realized this, and responded by burying it in the mix somewhat, as well as using a lot of echo effects, and although Johnson’s screams are occasionally a bit grating, it’s a very minor quibble–he still adds greatly to the excitement level of the album.
The album opening title track doesn’t get the record off to a promising start–it’s a real messy bashfest of a song. Once it passes though, you’re in for a hell of an exciting ride.
Angus and Malcolm did a great job producing this–the guitars smoke, and the crisp-yet-booming drum sound works great. Sure, Simon Wright’s drumming is about as no-frills as it can get, but come on–fancy drumming has never exactly been a key factor with AC/DC.
Mid-tempo hard rockers really don’t come any better than “Sink The Pink”–the intro has a great eighth-note guitar line from Angus that makes the arrivial of the chorus riff all the more thrilling, and the whole tune is brilliantly structured for maximum ass-kicking impact. “Hell Or High Water” and “Back In Business” are also mid-tempo ass-kickers with irresistible riffs. “Shake Your Foundations” has that ultra-catchy singalong chorus. The stomping “First Blood” has an irresistibly ‘dumb’ core riff that’ll get you banging your head in no time. The slow-paced “Danger” has an amusingly threatening vibe and is a ton of fun. The whomping “Playing With Girls” is an explosive funked-up boogie with a perfectly placed and gloriously unhinged Johnson scream at 1:58 of the track. The bluesy “Stand Up” is cleverly constructed and has an intoxicating, anthemic chorus. The album closes with the irresistibly moody stomper “Send For The Man”.
In short, I’m really blown away by this album–it’s definitely one of AC/DC’s best. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this great, but it is. Angus and Malcolm clearly didn’t give a damn about the trends in hard rock/ heavy metal at the time, and more power to them. “Fly…” has none of the lame, commercialized cockrock sound that turns up on the “Highway To Hell” and “Back In Black” albums. If you’re a hard rock lover, you can’t go wrong with “Fly On The Wall”.