AC/DC -Stiff Upper Lip
On February 28, 2020, "AC/DC" released their 14th album "Stiff Upper Lip".
This is what Elad Winberg has to say about it.
Five years have passed since the excellent album "Ballbreaker" and "AC/DC" returned with another successful album called "Stiff Upper Lip". The album continue the line of its predecessor with the raw and simpler sound and with a return to the roots and especially to the bluesy sound that characterized Bon Scott's era In the band, during the 70's and especially on albums like "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" and "TNT", which came out in the middle of that decade.
It is important to note that unlike "Ballbreaker", it seems that "Stiff Upper Lip" has caused quite a bit of controversy among audiences and critics alike. To this day, there are many who do not really like this album and claim that it is one of the weakest points of "AC/DC" and that it was really uninspired compared to its predecessors.
In this case, it is important for me to say that I do not agree to these opinions. Yes, I know this is not a perfect album and there are also some really weak songs here, but at this stage of their career, the very fact is that "AC/DC" are still able to release commercially successful albums, with new and really fun songs. This is not trivial at all. Even if this album is not the highlight of their careers, there are still some really good moments here, that add quite a bit of interest.
For example, the album opens up with the song "Stiff Upper Lip" which features a catchy and addictive riff by Malcolm Young and a great guitar solo by Angus Young. Beyond the successful guitar playing and the usual bombastic drumming of Phil Rudd, it's really important to note Cliff Williams' steady and dominant bass playing. The cool clip that came out supporting this song, shows the band members playing in the middle of the street during a really big traffic jam ... no doubt a fun and successful song and this great video clip just adds a lot of charm to it and makes it one of my favorite "AC/DC" tracks.
While "Meltdown" that comes after that is a bit boring, on the third track we have the excellent "House of Jazz" that despite it's title, is not a jazz song. It's just a powerful and especially fun Hard Rock song. With some of Malcolm Young's best riffs and Brian Johnson's beautiful singing, there's really no room for mistakes and it's one of the most powerful and interesting songs in this whole album.
And so, the instability continues with the uninspiring "Hold Me Back," but again, after that comes an excellent song, this time it's "Safe In New York City" that holds a unique text, including a very interesting story behind it. Basically, this is a humorous song written by Angus Young. He refer to the fact, that contrary to the common thought that New York is a safe and secure city, so many unexpected things can still happen in it and one should be very careful when one is there.
Quite sadly, the song became relevant again a year later as a result of the events of September 11, when it was included in a list of songs banned from playing on the radio, as a result of the severe tragedy, due to its cynical message on New York City. Regardless of the controversy, this is still one of the best songs of "AC/DC" in the modern era, with sweeping and very focused riffs. Brian Johnson's singing in the chorus is very catchy and Angus Young's solo is bombastic as usual. For me, this is the best song on this album by far, probably thanks to the bluesy style and funny lyrics reminiscent the masterpiece album "Powerage", released in 1978 and also included cynical writing as in this genius song.
The next song "Can't Stand Still" is not bad at all and right after we get a nice dose of Hard Rock kicking and bouncing songs, that maintains a stable and uniform high level until the end of the album and manage to turn it from a reasonable album to a good and fun album, as a result of it's diversity.
In song 7 we have "Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll", a pretty kicking and catchy song, that apart from the similarity in its title, has nothing to do with the hit "You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll" by "Twisted Sister ". In this case it is a basic and raw Hard Rock piece and Brian Johnson's singing leads it forward with all his might and in such an impressive way.
Then comes "Satellite Blues", and this trend continues. There are sharpened and powerful riffs by Malcolm Young, another insane solo of the legendary Angus Young and another purposeful display by Brian Johnson, who gives everything he has and presents versatility and really impressive vocal control.
True, the song "Damned" slows down a bit, but it's still not a bad song at all and the same can be said about "Come and Get It", which brings us back to the well known and well-remembered vocal harmonies of "AC/DC", and whose interesting chorus manages to carry it, even though it's a bit of a generic song that doesn't go anywhere special, except maybe a few good riffs here and there.
The album ends with all the power, and in song 11 comes "All Screwed Up", which will not renew almost anything for you, but still this is a bouncy and sweeping Hard Rock song and there is an amazing drumming by Phil Rudd and another purposeful display by Cliff Williams, that stands out very much on this album and helps to keep the rhythm with so much experience and skill. Simply inconceivable given the long career of this band. Amazing how Cliff has always been able to maintain such a good fitness over the years, well done to him!
Finally, in song 12 comes the great piece "Give It Up", with a very fast playing and a technical and so crazy solo by Angus Young. There is no better way to close this album than with another Hard Rock staple, just as "AC/DC" know how to do so well and for so many years.
Also interesting to mention the endearing song "Cyberspace", which came out in some of the extended versions of the album. It may not be a great song, but it has good riffs, a really good solo and its lyrics are written really well.
In conclusion, even if "Stiff Upper Lip" does not renew much, and even if not all the songs here maintain a high and uniform level, this is still a good and quite enjoyable album. It will provide a lot of interest to anyone who loves "AC/DC" and is curious to hear some music they recorded in the modern age. I highly recommend it to all fans of the band, although other people will also enjoy it if you like rock music.
Score: 8.1 / 10 (Good)
Writer: Elad Winberg