Graded on a Curve:
AC/DC,
High Voltage

Rock ‘n’ roll primitivists in thrall to electricity and American thighs, these salivating koala shaggers from Oz were the dingoes who REALLY got Meryl Streep’s baby, and maybe your baby (or your mom!) too. Just about everybody I know hates ‘em, thinks their dumb, but I’m a big fan of AC/DC’s brand of Down Under thunder–it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten to being struck by lightning.

Released the year punk exploded, High Voltage (the band’s first international release) may as well have been a punk record; the snot quotient’s high enough. But the Aussie lager louts in AC/DC weren’t play-acting nihilists–all they wanted to do was get rich and get laid while sticking their tongues out (just like Angus on the album cover!) at everything (school, parents, jobs, the Twelve Commandments) that stood in their way.

Accidental electrocution risks like “Live Wire” and “High Voltage” let you know AC/DC has electricity on the brain, but that’s just cuz it takes a whole lotta juice to produce their bare-bones brand of arena-shaking amplification. Nobody’s ever accused AC/DC of subtlety, and that’s one of the things I love most about ‘em. They’re the rock’n’roll equivalent of Mike Tyson, dispensing with all that Muhammed Ali “float like a butterfly” bullshit shit in favor of big one-punch T.K.O.s.

And then there’s Bon Scott, whose premature death (gargling vomit really can be a health hazard) was a bona fide rock tragedy. High Voltage is hardly the best AC/DC LP in terms of songs (with a few exceptions they would go on to write better), or even sonic sturm und drang, but Scott–whose voice is all sandpaper and razor blades–never sounded better.

By turns lewd, sly, menacing, and insinuating, he brings a spirit of M-80 hurling mischief to the proceedings. On “Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer” he’s an aside a minute–“I hear it pays well,” he says optimistically at one point, “Stick your moral standards/’Cause it’s all a dirty lie” he snarls (and it’s scary!) at another. Like David Lee Roth and Kix’s Steve Whiteman, he’s one of hard rock’s great color commentators.

High Voltage is a mixed bag; On the monumentally great “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)” Bon picks up the bagpipe and produces a drone that puts the Velvet Underground to shame, while rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young produces one of the nastiest guitar riffs of all time. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer” slows things down a bit, but Scott’s in-your-face delivery (you can practically feel the spittle on your cheeks) has the kind of get-out-of-my-way cock swagger I associate with such legendary macho men as Ronnie Van Zant and the dudes in the Village People.

“Live Wire” shoots off sparks ZZ Top style while Scott the cocksman dares you to “stick this in the fusebox”; “T.N.T. opens with the boys shouting “Oi! Oi! Oi” but Bon ain’t no skinhead, just a one-man “power load” considerate enough (he’s a real sweetie at heart) to recommend you lock up your daughter–and your wife too!

AC/DC doesn’t do so well when things quiet down. “Little Lover” could be a fucking Eagles’ song it’s so lame, but the lyrics are groundbreaking; Bon’s the first guy in rock’n’roll history to directly address the fact that overexcited little girls have been known to leave little wet patches on their seats at rock concerts. Bet you never heard the BEATLES sing about that! Oh, and Bon also name drops Gary Glitter! “Can I Sit Next to Your Girl” sounds like a ’50s-influenced pub rocker to me, which makes me think they bought it for cheap in a back alley somewhere from the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

As for the stomper “She’s Got Balls” it’s got this “Stranglehold”-ere Ted Nugent feel to it and is interesting to me only insofar as it’s not clear if the woman in question’s got, like, REAL balls, or just knows how to stand up for herself. But if she’s so good at standing up for herself why’s she crawling around on the floor on her hands and knees? And if she’s got real balls, why doesn’t she stand up and slap Bon in this face with ‘em? Seriously, where’s VH1’s Behind the Music when you need it? Which leaves “The Jack,” which is slower than Boston’s Great Molasses Flood (Google it!), equates poker with syphilis, and abounds with double entendres. But what do I care? I never play poker and I’ve never had the clap and I can’t help but think this baby would sound better speeded up to 45.

The only AC/DC fans I’ve ever known were the morning drinkers and PCP smokers I used to work with at the Littlestown Hardware and Foundry. There was this lunkhead with a glass eye and 7 am whisky breath who loved ‘em, and this goofball who could literally drive you out of a VERY large room with his farts who loved ‘em, and yet another total psycho who cracked his head open crawling through a length of concrete pipe one time and proceeded to laugh like it was the funniest thing that’d ever happened to him who loved ‘em, and it’s to them that I dedicate this review.

To quote the great Martijn de Vries, “Real hard steel funky armpit rock ‘n’ roll power!”

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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