Now we get to the sad album, the last AC/DC album released before former rhythm guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young passed away on November 18, 2017. Rock or Bust (2014) is the band’s 16th (15th internationally released) studio album. What’s interesting about this album is that it’s the first to feature Mal and Angus’ nephew, Stevie Young, on rhythm guitar. Stevie replaced Mal after he retired in September 2014 due to being diagnosed with dementia.
I’ve wanted to avoid reviewing this album for quite a bit because A LOT went down during and after Rock or Bust was released. First of all, drummer Phil Rudd couldn’t participate in the respective tour due to being sentenced to eight months of house arrest, following his drug possession charges, and threatening to kill someone. As a result, former drummer Chris Slade took over for him. Brian Johnson had to leave after the fifth leg of the tour or risk total hearing loss. Lead vocalist of Guns N’ Roses, Axl Rose, filled in for Johnson during the remaining shows. By the end of the tour, bassist Cliff Williams retired from the music industry altogether.
Geez, that was a lot to say! But Angus fought through it all like a trooper, and the boys still gave the fans another album for them to enjoy. I know I got a bit annoyed with their previous album, Black Ice (2008), but I still liked it, and I think the same for Rock or Bust! Remember, AC/DC never released terrible albums, just some that aren’t as good as others.
Despite the bull**** the band went through, “Rock or Bust” kicks a**! There’s no sign of drama or negativity in the title track; it is just pure rock ‘n’ roll at its finest. “In rock ‘n’ roll we trust, it’s rock or bust!” My initial reaction to “Play Ball” was why?!?! Who came up with the idea to write a song for sports games?!?! But with Phil Rudd laying down the groove and Angus and Stevie showing who’s boss, it’s too darn good to avoid!
If only “Rock the Blues Away” was the cure for COVID-19 because it’s such an uplifting track, and AC/DC has always been an apolitical band, which is what we need now! “Miss Adventure” sounds like something you’d hear at the opening of a spy movie. “Dogs of War” is ok; not my favorite, but it’s decent. “Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder” is one of my favorites on the album because it’s another kick*** song; the chorus is fun, it has a punchy bass line, and Stevie and Angus are in sync! There’s no-nonsense on “Hard Times” as Angus delivers some nice bluesy licks. Rudd’s loose hi-hat is all over “Baptism by Fire,” and it’s got a satanic riff similar to “Demon Fire.”
Johnson knocks everyone off their feet with “Rock the House,” where he squeals about mistresses and hot-blooded women. He’s hungry for more on the band’s next track, “Sweet Candy.” The album ended on a high note with “Emission Control,” where Rudd’s drums and Williams’ bass locked in with Stevie’s heavy riff.
Before writing this review, I listened to Rock or Bust about two times and was not a fan. However, I’ve grown to like this album more and cut the boys some slack for their never-changing formula. They’ve been writing the same songs for the past 40 years, so why am I complaining now?!?!?! I liked the clean production by Brendan O’Brien, who ended up producing their next album as well, Power Up (2020). I was also impressed by how loud Williams’ bass was; I heard him for more than half of the songs. I’d give this album a 3.6 out of 5 stars because I like Black Ice a little more, but this album is still good!
Do you have a favorite song from Rock or Bust? Let me know in the comments below!
Take care and see ya real soon!