Review Summary: A strong sophomore outing that balances AC/DC’s emerging prowess with a couple lingering quirks
Released just ten months after the fumbled but promising High Voltage, T.N.T. sees AC/DC solidifying their brand of no-nonsense hard rock. A proper rhythm section was found in bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd, resulting in a much heavier sound that allowed the band’s more striking aspects to take flight. The token cover song, a take on Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” being placed at the end of the album rather than the start feels like a symbol of their growing confidence.
Going along with that, the musicianship and song structures feel much more developed than before. Rudd’s patented hard-hitting metronome drumming just might be what the band needed all along, providing a solid foundation for the bass to thump along and the guitars to pile on even more weight. The longer instrumental buildups on songs like “Live Wire” and “Can I Sit Next To You, Girl” have an easygoing vibe that keeps their simple grooves from feeling too played out while more compact numbers like ”Rocker” and the title track play up the more frantic side of their style.
This album is also where we really start to see Bon Scott’s persona as a singer taking shape, giving the band even more character. Armed with a storytelling swagger that feels like a down under answer to Phil Lynott or Ronnie Van Zant, his delivery is a perfect storm of cheeky bravado that manages to stay relatable no matter what the intentions are behind his sneer. It’s a little funny to see “It’s a Long Way To The Top” and ”Rock ‘n’ Song Singer” directly contradict each other with the latter’s teenage rock star wish fulfillment coming off the latter’s more realistic take on the industry grind, yet both narratives are sold with the same enthusiasm. The tough guy tirades on “Live Wire” and the title track are also packed with enough goofiness to ensure you that they aren’t meant to be taken seriously.
And while this album doesn’t get as out of character as High Voltage’s weirder moments, there are still a couple songs that make for interesting outliers. “Can I Sit Next to You, Girl” is a Bon-ified update of a single released with original singer Dave Evans and features the band’s glam roots making one last stand in the pulsating beat and up-close-and-personal chorus. The opening “It’s a Long Way To The Top” may not be too drastic with its anthemic structure and riffs in the classic mold, but I can’t be the only one who thinks about the alternate universe where they tried using the bagpipes for more than just this one song...
Overall, T.N.T. has a rather interesting place in AC/DC’s overall legacy. With seven of its nine tracks going toward the international version of High Voltage, its quality has seen some indirect acknowledgement and several of these songs remain major staples. Taken on its own terms, it’s a strong sophomore outing that balances the band’s emerging prowess with a few lingering quirks. You aren’t missing out on too much by going for the more recognizable compilation, but it’s certainly interesting to see where the band was coming from.