“‘Blow Up Your Video’ is a batch of mostly strong hard rock tunes from AC/DC, well played but poorly sung.
Written by: Lee South Africa
ALBUM: Blow Up Your Video
SERIAL: 7 81828-1 (LP), 7 81828-2 (CD)
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Australia, England
LINEUP: Brian Johnson – vocals *Angus Young – lead guitar * Malcolm Young – rhythm guitars * Cliff Williams – bass * Simon Wright – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Heatseeker * 02 That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll * 03 Meanstreak * 04 Go Zone * 05 Kissin’ Dynamite * 06 Nick Of Time * 07 Some Sin For Nuthin’ * 08 Ruff Stuff * 09 Two’s Up * 10 This Means War
WEBLINKS: Site Link
AC/DC were on their way back up by 1988, after ‘Who Made Who’ provided them with a much needed hit soundtrack and single. Having reunited with their legendary 70’s production team of Harry Vanda and George Young for the 3 new tracks on ‘Who Made Who’, it made sense to retain them for the next full studio album.
After all, ‘Flick Of The Switch’ and ‘Fly On The Wall’ had both performed below commercial expectations despite their quality songs. According to the liner notes, no air conditioning was available in the blistering French studio. Was a red hot riff rock album on the cards?
‘Heatseeker’ certainly sets out that way, as well named a slice of catchy hard rock as you’ll find, complete with anthemic chorus and serious hooks. Only problem is the steady decline of Brian Johnson’s voice. A good listen to ‘Back In Black’ will reveal he started his AC/DC tenure singing pretty well, although redlining on the effort meter. Each subsequent album seemed to herald a gradual decline in the quality of his voice and by 1988 it’s really just a loud unpleasant croak. Still, the backing vocals salvage what they can from the wreckage.
‘That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll’ follows a similar path, another hard rock anthem full of bravado and hustle, even a good helping of melody which goes some way to offset the poor vocals. ‘Meanstreak’ is just flat-out monotony, very little melodic inclination and the riffs don’t get the coffee machine started up.
‘Go Zone’ is better though, managing to convey more of a sense of melody within it’s rigidly metronomic framework. A far stronger main riff also helps to raise the bar. ‘Kissin’ Dynamite’ is actually very good, well structured verses building the tension and then a tiered release of melody in a brutally simple chorus that somehow works despite my ongoing vocal misgivings. This is nowhere near AOR, but enjoyable enough hard rock.
‘Nick Of Time’ is quite the pulsing frenetic rocker, again building fairly well. It all belly flops as soon as Johnson tries to sound melodic while croaking ‘saved in the nick of time’ though … this is what everything was building up to, and no backing vocals for melodic impact? Come on.
‘Some Sin For Nothin’ reveals just how bad an AC/DC throwaway can sound, but salvation comes in the form of ‘Ruff Stuff’. As always the structure is very simple but the hook doesn’t let go this time, and the gang vocals at chorus time actually work well.
‘Two’s Up’ could be the album’s best moment, a riff structure not miles away from AOR and some wonderfully subtle melodic twists. I have to admit this is the track I’ve found myself coming back to time and again. ‘This Means War’ ends the album in throwaway mode though, frenetic and uninspired.
‘Blow Up Your Video’ was a success for AC/DC, both ‘Heatseeker’ and ‘That’s The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll’ making the charts. 1990’s mega-selling follow up ‘The Razor’s Edge’ permanently cemented their place in Germiston mullet culture with ‘Thunderstruck’ leading the way.
For the 1987/88 period though, contemporaries Kiss and Aerosmith were both producing far superior music, blending AOR into their established sound and maintaining lead vocals of high quality. While some would argue that Brian Johnson’s croak is part of AC/DC’s charm and appeal I’m not buying it. ‘Blow Up Your Video’ is a batch of mostly strong hard rock tunes, well played but poorly sung.
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