Grown Up All Wrong

Listening to Stiff Upper Lip, AC/DC's first album of new material since 1995's Ballbreaker, I'm reminded of that Carl Reiner/Mel Brooks 2000 Year Old Man routine — the one where Reiner asks Brooks what people ate in the caveman era. "Well," answers Brooks, "Around my cave, we ate only organic." "You mean, natural fruits and vegetables, things like that?" asks Reiner. "No," says Brooks, emphatically. "I mean organic — rocks, mountains, clouds."

So. You want to talk organic rock? As in two-guitars-bass-drums, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-verse-chorus-chorus, banshee vocals, stoopid lyrics, riffs-from-Stonehenge rock? Well, that's what this album sounds like. Hell, that's what every AC/DC album sounds like, bless their pointy little arrested-development heads. Just what do you think Brian Johnson is hiding under that decrepit hat? Hair? And do you really think Angus Young's schoolboy-in-disgrace outfit is just a costume? Grow DOWN, alright?

In the grand tradition of "It is what it is" boogie mentality, AC/DC can now comfortably lay claim to the title of longest-playing broken record in the entire history of rock. All their songs sound the same — yes! And what a damn good song it's been for 27 (count 'em) years. You want the fast, stomping version? Try a double shot of the blistering title track (RealAudio excerpt) ("I keep a stiff upper lip/ And I shoot [all together now] from the hip") and the set's (what else is new?) soccer-chant closer, "Give It Up." You want the slow, plodding version? Head over to "Can't Stand Still" (RealAudio excerpt) — a bona fide, no-fancy-chord-changes-for-us, gutbucket blues with a whopping solo from our lad Angus that, were it sampled out to stand on its own, would wipe the proverbial floor with just about anything Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or (your favorite geezer here) has played in at least two decades.

Call me an optimist, but one good tour from these recalcitrant (hey, I used a big word!) yokels and the world just might be safe again for sheer, Un-ADULT-erated adolescent rock 'n' roll. In the meantime, chew on this tender vittle from "Come and Get It," but one of the many shout-it-out-loud-before-you-get-sick-and-puke new classics from this blissfully myopic (uh-oh, another big word ... I better finish up) new slab of brontosaurus rock. "I'm pickin' up the sleaze in the car ... I'm suckin' up the juice in the bar/ These are the finer things in life." Accent on "finer." As Angus and brother Malcolm (can't forget Malcolm — best rhythm guitarist on the entire planet, it sez here) wrote it, and as Brian Johnson — he of the godawful-wonderful, pinched-throat, whisper-scream no one in their right mind would ever call a voice — yowls it: "You can't stop rock ' n' roll." May it ever be thus.