AC/DC: “Rock’n’Roll Train”

A quick one today, as Brian Johnson might say. I was subbing some copy for the next issue this morning, where a rock star who shall remain nameless for another four weeks revealed that he’d choose the Benny Hill theme as seduction music. AC/DC always seem like the rock equivalent of that, in many ways – so squalid, so repetitive. And yet, as I may have mentioned before, I can’t think of many bands I’ve seen live and enjoyed so much.

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A quick one today, as Brian Johnson might say. I was subbing some copy for the next issue this morning, where a rock star who shall remain nameless for another four weeks revealed that he’d choose the Benny Hill theme as seduction music. AC/DC always seem like the rock equivalent of that, in many ways – so squalid, so repetitive. And yet, as I may have mentioned before, I can’t think of many bands I’ve seen live and enjoyed so much.



I’m a sucker for the records, too, so the arrival of “Rock’n’Roll Train” is an enormous pleasure. The practicalities of trying to review this fine song are not new ones: what else is there to say about an AC/DC song other than it sounds like all their other ones, and it’s great? Perusing the tracklisting for the parent album, “Black Ice” (which I should be hearing next week, incidentally), I could have sworn that they’ve used some of these titles before, too.

I was going to quote one or two to prove this, but it strikes me that every track on the album is like that –

“Rock’n’Roll Train”
“Skies On Fire”
“Big Jack”
“Anything Goes”
“War Machine”
“Smash ‘n’ Grab”
“Spoilin’ For a Fight”
“Wheels”
“Decibel”
“Stormy May Day”
“She Likes Rock ‘n’ Roll”
“Money Made”
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream”
“Rocking All the Way”
“Black Ice”

Only three with “rock’n’roll” in the title, parsimoniously. Someone in the office mentioned how far they’ve gone with three chords. Their vocabulary hasn’t needed to be much bigger, either.

Anyway, some salient facts. “Rock’n’Roll Train” is produced by Brendan O’Brien, and unlike some of his work with Springsteen and Neil Young, it’s suitably clean, crisp and massive. I’ve regularly argued about how, while Angus Young always gets the attention for his shredding, it’s Malcolm Young’s steady, mathematical riffing that is AC/DC’s greatest strength.

Unlike most of “Stiff Upper Lip”, this one finds the band doing their patented Herculean plod rather than priapic boogie. As a guide, I’d pitch it somewhere between “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “For Those About To Rock”. We can marvel endlessly about how this took them eight years to come up with, but maybe AC/DC begin with complication and then slowly and ruthlessly pare everything down until there’s nothing left but a riff, a chant, a crude sexual metaphor.

Or perhaps they just knock this stuff out in a brief hiatus between three-year holidays. Whatever: fabulous. And it’s here for you to sample. Sceptics, of course, should stay well away.

UPDATE: I’ve now filed a preview of the whole album here.

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