This is the AC/DC album that no one thought would happen. After a tumultuous period that saw the death of guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young, the departures of bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd, and the (thought-to-be) career-ending hearing loss of vocalist Brian Johnson, it was widely assumed that 2014’s Rock or Bust would be AC/DC’s swan song. “You can’t call an album Rock or Bust and then go bust,” lead guitarist Angus Young says.
With Johnson, Rudd, and Williams back in the fold, POWER UP is a massive triumph. True to AC/DC’s nearly half-century of domination, the album sees the Australian masters in top form, as evidenced by the groove-powered opener “Realize,” the frenetic “Demon Fire,” and anthemic lead single “Shot in the Dark.” Elsewhere, Johnson cowboys up on the western-themed “Wild Reputation” and delivers a classic AC/DC double entendre on the suitably lascivious “Money Shot.”
Dedicated to Malcolm, the record features songs that he and his brother Angus worked on together back in 2007 and 2008. “These ideas came from just before we did Black Ice, when me and Malcolm had been in the studio for a long time just writing songs,” Angus reveals. “We had so much material.” With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping much of the world on lockdown and just about eliminating live music, AC/DC decided to release POWER UP to tide fans over until the band can safely hit the stage again. “I think we waited until the world hit a limit of misery with this thing,” Johnson says, “and just said, ‘Right, time to cheer it up.’”