Recently, I decided to answer a question on Faceblearrgh that nobody had actually asked me — namely: “hey, HVB. Can you name 10 albums that are absolutely perfect?” Like a gladiator, I rose to my own challenge, and, facing myself as disdainful Caesar in the stands, recited my list, boldly, proudly, flawless disc by flawless disc, as the hungry lions circled. I was thoroughly pleased as I watched myself lift my royal thumb towards the sky in approval of my own bold opinions.
But, no, I’m not here to tell you which albums made my list — nor am I asking you for yours. We’re supposed to be above that kind of shit here in the Halls of Rocke Towne.
I will, however, spend a few moments explaining why one album from my list — an album you’ve probably never heard, called “Powerage” — is not just the best album in AC/DC’s career; it may also be one of the best albums ever made.
Howzabout we *not* start with a discussion of Angus Young’s “manic”/“slashing”/“angry”/whatever guitar playing. That is a thing, for sure, but yawn. Ditto for the overall quality of the songs, musically speaking. Those are givens here. No, I want to talk about the lyrics.
Lord knows, Bon Scott has a well deserved reputation for writing leering single-entendres about big butts, crabs, booze, and the general, universe-wide, triumphant reality of feeling good (as opposed to the pointless pursuit of being good, or things that actually are good). But there’s a strong current of Bon’s songwriting that speaks to ordinary losers, and about the stacked decks, con artists, and rich dickheads that keep them down.
To be clear, “Powerage” features a few fine songs about sexual frustration (“Gimme a Bullet”), romantic rejection/betrayal (“Kicked In the Teeth”), actually-scary S&M perversion (“What’s Next To the Moon”) and so forth, and they’re all surprisingly compelling — no, really — but most of the record is about (are you ready for this?) the class war, and whether or not Bon thinks it’s worth your time to fight in it.
Most of the time, he doesn’t seem to think there’s any point. His characters revel in the freedom their lack of status grants them (“Riff Raff”), find humor in their own materialism and harmless hypocrisies (“Down Payment Blues”) — or he sings from his own heart about the perpetual unfairness of capitalism (and his cynical wish to be the top dog), as in “Sin City.”
But, meta-analysis aside, here’s the last point I want to make: Bon’s words *sound* great. Any student of Chuck Berry (as Bon was) knows that’s the really important thing. Do the words sound good? Do they make your reptile brain happy? Are they good to your earhole? Do they make you want to sing along? All across this working man’s hard rock album, the answer to those questions is a full-on, beer-drenched “yes.”
“Powerage” by AC/DC is flawless, and Bon Scott’s lyrics are a big part of the reason why. I have spoken.