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AC/DC: High Voltage

December 2, 2010

Today’s roll: 1 – 1 – 2.
Result:
High Voltage by AC/DC.

The award for most CDs by a band I hate on my shelf goes to AC/DC. The total is a whopping three titles by the audaciously long-running Aussie rockers. I should qualify my use of the word “hate” here. What I mean when I write that I “hate” AC/DC is that I absolutely loathe them. That is I loathe them, and the weak parody they’ve become, now.

But AC/DC circa 1975/76 were one of the best rock’n’roll bands to ever have their glorious, grimy, debauched, sleazy lunacy committed to wax. High Voltage combines the the best of their first two Australian platters (one confusingly also titled High Voltage) to serve up as perfect a set of gutter-rock as you could hope to find this side of the first two Stooges albums.

To me AC/DC will always be synonymous with gravel-pit parties, cheap beer, stale pot smoke, the fear of getting beat up, struggling to jam through Zeppelin‘s “The Ocean” without ever having listened to the whole song, older girls with teased hair, skull earrings, tight jeans, rusted-out cars, my psychotic cousin’s martial arts magazines strewn over his water-bed as he lies to me about stuff he’s done with girls, wispy moustaches on guys who can’t really grow them, Judas Priest back-patches on denim jackets, poor kids, trailer parks, not understanding, not belonging … being 15 in a small town.

Highway to Hell, Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap and, to a lesser extent, High Voltage were the soundtracks for my middle- and high-school years as a headbanger. AC/DC was the one band everyone could agree on or at least tolerate. Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath were too dark for some people. Dokken and Ratt were too glam and people weren’t quite sure yet what to do with Slayer, Metallica and Venom, though we had an idea that was where we were headed.

But no one argued when you put on some DeeCee from Back in Black or earlier. It was party music, it was driving music, it was playing cards music, it was hanging out in the parking lot music.

The music was simple. Older kids grew up on it and it’s not so heavy younger kids couldn’t get into it. There’s no twin-guitar leads or time signature changes, there’s no sword and sorcery imagery. There are double entendres about testicles.

Their universal appeal was very much due to, before they jumped the musical shark, the purity of their music. High Voltage in particular showcases all the traits of a perfect, undiluted, unpretentious rock’n’roll record. It seethes with genuine disdain for the establishment. But not in an intellectual or political way; in a “don’t look down on me because I’m going to drink myself to death, fuck you, let’s rock” way.

AC/DC’s world is tiny on this record. It stretches from the stage, across the bar, to the back of the tour bus. This world is only populated with themselves, underage girls and the assholes standing in their way they’re going to have to plow right through.

They’re punks. They’re rocking. This record is, though it’s rarely thought of in these terms, one of the true early punk rock discs. It’s more punk rock than many bands who intentionally tried to make punk rock. By comparison intelligentsia-core bands like Hüsker Dü and Dead Kennedys come off like Fleetwood Mac.

High Voltage captures the raw, reckless, unruly, adolescent and even naively innocent spirit of rock’n’roll in a way that’s been lost. There’s no polish, there’s no fat, there’s no play-acting. This is a truthful artistic statement from a band of young dirtbags who don’t give a shit about anything but the sex and drugs mythology of rock’n’roll.

You really can’t ask for anything more.

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