May 032020

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.



  8 Responses to “Why “Powerage” by AC/DC is the Greatest Album You’ve Never Heard”

  1. Happiness Stan

    I’m patently the wrong person to offer any opinion on AC/DC, so will resist trying to do so. I do like Hayseed Dixie, though, who always come round to day hello when they pay a little festival I work at.

    I hear what you’re saying about the words sounding good, when Chuck Berry died the rock and roll show I listen to on the radio played a ton of his records and what struck me was the timing of the words, like a stand up comic building up to the punchline and delivering it spot on every time. What you’re describing sounds like the feeling I get from the first Modem Lovers album.

    What drives a songwriter to move from punchy and direct to opaque? From I Get Around to columnated ruins domino, from Bon Scott to James Joyce? It happens over and over again, and unless you’re Dylan it’s not likely to eggs well.

  2. Happiness Stan

    eggs? Where the… End, obviously

  3. trigmogigmo

    Excuse me??? “Never heard of”???? Oh, I have heard it. Repeatedly. And I agree it is, if not perfect, damn near so.

    “Down Payment Blues”, “Sin City”, “What’s Next to the Moon” are almost enough right there to make it perfect. I so agree with your interesting analysis that the words just sound right, no matter what they actually say.

    My understanding is that we generally have Malcom the elder Young to thank for the riffs. Thank you, Malcom, wherever you are.

  4. 2000 Man

    I remember it. I still think if AC/DC were cool they’d have been Rose Tattoo instead.

  5. cherguevara

    I’m listening to this album for the second time (during the interregnum, I broke and subscribed to spotify, which I admit has been pretty awesome for several reasons). “Gimmie a Bullet” sounds like “Highway to Hell” to me, and reinforces my uninformed presumption that owning one AC/DC album is enough. I’d assumed that would be Back In Black, because come on that title track just stomps no matter how many times you hear it. But this is a pretty solid rock and roll album for sure.

    I used to have this perception of Aussie bands as being harder, louder than those from other countries, that every bar there was packed full of hard-working, beer swigging, muscle-bound hot-heads who would not stand for any music that was not absolutely raging. I believed this despite owning Lime Spiders, Chills and, yes, INXS records. Go fig.

  6. BigSteve

    It would take more than the return of hvb to get me to listen to Powerage. Or any ACDC album for that matter.

  7. Just a heads up. Hang in there. Hrundi will be posting a review of another of his perfect LPs: Krokus’ Hardware.

    Kudos! Hrundi! Never before have I seen anyone blow their credibility so completely with one big belch!

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    Funny you should mention Krokus. Their “Metal Rendezvous” album is one of the most unintentionally hilarious records ever made.

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