Monday, July 6: AC/DC, “This Means War”
It sounds strange now, given that everyone (including the band) likes to pretend that AC/DC basically didn’t exist between 1981 and 1990, but Blow Up Your Video actually received a 4-star rating from Rolling Stone when it was released back in 1988, and was acclaimed in the press as a vigorous return to form. But record sales mean more to AC/DC than they would like to admit, and since the album was their third flop in a row (not counting the 1986 Who Made Who compilation, which briefly revived the band’s commercial standing), Blow Up Your Video is not only a forgotten entry in their discography, but the knee-jerk consensus is that it was yet another crappy album between the blockbuster For Those About to Rock We Salute You and the comeback of The Razors Edge.
But Blow Up Your Video, much like the preceding Fly on the Wall, was actually a lot better than the consensus would have you believe. No, it’s not a masterpiece, but it is lively and fun, and while Harry Vanda and George Young’s production is strangely stiff (especially surprising since they were brought in to bring back the power and rawness of their Bon Scott-era recording jobs), the album actually holds up better than Ballbreaker, Stiff Upper Lip or even The Razors Edge, all of which sold in much greater numbers. “This Means War” closed out Blow Up Your Video in typically explosive fashion, and is an interesting footnote in the band’s career, as it was the last song on the last album containing lyrics by Brian Johnson. Simon Wright’s drumming was perhaps more metallic than was necessary for AC/DC (no surprise that he eventually left to join Dio), but it gave “This Means War” the proper heft and force it needed to convincingly sell Johnson’s tale of kicking ass. And the rest of the band followed suit, making “This Means War” one last holler to wrap up the ‘80s, and although it didn’t sound like the AC/DC that crafted Highway to Hell or Back in Black, it still sounded like AC/DC. As it is, “This Means War” is more fun than most of what AC/DC delivered over the next 20 years, and makes Blow Up Your Video ripe for reappraisal in the same fashion that Flick of the Switch went from a black sheep to a fan-favorite dark horse in the band’s discography.