Even though the quota for AC/DC clones have been filled ages ago, I was still pretty much floored when fellow Aussies Airbourne released their debut album Runnin’ Wild back in 2007. The energy, spark and sheer passion for driven, straight-forward and edgy Rock ’n’ Roll – and of course the killer song-writing, made the album impossible to resist. And truth be told, even though the AC/DC influences were everywhere on the album, I never saw Airbourne as clones. AC/DC was in there, so was Rose Tattoo but they also had the fuck-you attitude and party-til-u-puke outlook of bands like Mötley Crüe and Motörhead and the mix made them sound like their own beast. I had one worry already after the debut album though. How would the band take their music further after this? How would they develop their sound without sounding repetitive. I mean, their heroes AC/DC have been accused more than once for recording the same album over and over again.
The truth is, they really haven’t. The follow-up No Guts, No Glory (2010) was, without being a bad album, a disappointment and showed a band doing exactly that – recording an album that was the debut only with less focused and not as good songs. Fortunately, the follow-ups Black Dog Barking (2013) and Breakin’ Outta Hell (2016) showed a band that might not had stepped out of their comfort zone but at least the song-writing was on its way up again with hard, driven and memorable songs – and live, the band was still as kick-ass and menacing as ever. When they now release their new album, the fact that they went down to Nashville to work with Dave Cobb, a country/americana/rock-dude who has been giving bands like Rival Sons and Europe a killer sound, with their feet way back in the 70’s, made me hope that Airbourne had kept their style but also given their sound a new twist to take them forward.
Opening track, leading single and the album’s title track tattles of very little change in sound. It’s raw, rough and edgy with an AC/DC ”Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” touch. The chorus stretches out some, while still heavy and punchy it comes out as a rawer kind of American Stadium Rock puncher which makes it catch on immediately. It’s not a big change but enough to make it feel fresh – a damn good tune and what a way to start this record. ”Burnout The Nitro” – is this a full-blown Airbourne title or what? – is upbeat and a jawbreaker and a clear nod towards the Bon Scott era of AC/DC. Hard, full of attitude and raunchy the tune gets on your case and in your face with a willingness to beat you up. All would be well and dandy there but even though this isn’t music that should be analyzed to death, there aren’t enough memorability here and the tune just swishes by without making too much of an impression. It’s an ok song, though.
The headbang-friendly ”This Is Our City” comes in a mid-pace on a heavy groove with a tight, slammin’ beat, crunchy riffs and a massive ”whoo whoo whooa” refrain that will make any crowd shout along until their lungs drop dead. This tune is a hammerhead stomper, made for drinking with the buds and going bananas at the show. I love this! You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out just how sleazy, dirty and south-going ”Sex To Go” is. This is a total AC/DC clone of a song – beat-happy, sludgy, upbeat and straight-forward – very stage-friendly. The nasty, blues-boogie-rock rhythms are catchy enough but the song itself is only ok and doesn’t make a fuss at all. Which is not the case with the insanely groovy second single ”Backseat Boogie”. Fat and stompy, the tune holds a chorus made for shouting along to. It’s catchy as hell while kicking up some major dust. Bring out the air-guitars, folks because what we get here is a massive bone-breaker. Great stuff.
Longing for a new AC/DC record? Well, ”Blood In The Water” just might hold your cravings for a little while as this is AC/DC all the way through. It’s upbeat, crunchy and in-your-face with a kicking rhythm but the thing is, both Airbourne and AC/DC have done stuff like this before – and so much better. This is a throwaway. The chunky ”She Gives Me Hell” also sports some AC/DC vibes but overall, it’s more Melodic Rock influenced even though it’s intense, fat and punchy. The song actually brings on a slight Kix twist when it comes to the immediate and memorable melodies and the chorus is a total winner with more than an ounce of hit-potential. This should be a single. Very good. The raw and rowdy ”Switchblade Angel” speeds things up, taking the this short and concise number into an adrenaline frenzy with the song doing its best to bite your head off, aggressive as hell. It’s a good number albeit somewhat forgettable.
On a more serious note, ”Weapons Of War” might just be the first ever Airbourne thinker. The song starts out slow and it takes my mind to AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock (1981) sound-wise – heavy and darker in atmosphere. The verses speeds up the pace but when the chorus strikes, the slower, heavier and gloomier side comes back. Even though it’s not a beautiful ballad by any means, the slow pace do makes the tune a breather of sorts, a song that breaks off Airbourne’s fist-in-the-gut Rock’n’Roll. Good one. The title of the album’s closing track ”Rock ’N’ Roll For Life” speaks volumes for how the song sounds – and the album in general. The verses are a faster paced, shameless take on AC/DC’s ”Let There Be Rock” while the refrain is hard, kick-ass and it sure kicks up some dust. It’s an ok song but could have been a bit more nuanced – it feels a bit messy at times.
As for bringing in Dave Cobb as a producer, it really meant nothing for Airbourne’s sound – which is a pity. I had hoped that Cobb’s involvement would have helped the band branch out a little and develop their sound some, but nope, this album sounds exactly like the rest of the bunch. AC/DC, Rose Tattoo with a slight chunk of Judas Priest here and there and the attitude of Motörhead – harder, faster, louder all the time. Song-quality wise, this album isn’t as strong as the last couple of releases. There are too many fillers and even the really good songs are a bit samey and when the album is over, everytime I had played I just don’t get the urge to play it again. I love this lot as a live-act but they really need to update their sound a bit to not stagnate. It’s a pretty good album, but that’s it.
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