AC/DC
Ballbreaker


3.5
great

Review

by PsychicChris USER (493 Reviews)
March 24th, 2023 | 5 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

Review Summary: *Beavis and Butt-head chortling intensifies*

The prospect of Rick Rubin producing an AC/DC album seems like the ultimate no-brainer. Every other band that Rubin took under his wing in the late eighties and early nineties was essentially revamped to sound more like them and they’d been enjoying an elder statesman status with the Razors Edge’s success five years before. The pairing also showed some good proof of concept with the “Big Gun” single in 1993 and they even brought the master metronome himself Phil Rudd back for that extra hit of classic lineup dopamine.

Sure enough, the presentation on Ballbreaker is the most organic that AC/DC has sounded since Flick of the Switch and might even reach as far as the seventies if you’re feeling generous. The opening “Hard as a Rock” (Beavis and Butt-head chortling intensifies) immediately shows off crackling dual guitars building simply over a steady bass line. The vocals are also quite refreshing, sounding clear and effects-free and Johnson’s aging howl has some extra husky grit to it. The band subsequently expressed annoyance with Rubin’s perfectionist tendencies during the recording process, but they certainly put the work in.

From there, the rest of the album generally sticks to that mid-tempo pace, admittedly making for rather one-note listening. “Boogie Man” manages to hit some old school appeal with its bluesy shuffle and seductively threatening gravel coming straight from the High Voltage days while the title track closes out on a hearty stomp with amusing ‘step on me, mommy’ lyrics to match. On the flip side, the grooves on songs like “The Honey Roll” and “Love Bomb” are serviceable but superfluous while “Cover You in Oil” and “Caught With Your Pants Down” don’t offer too much beyond those ultra-horny titles.

In an interesting twist, there’s also an undercurrent of social commentary afoot. “High Caesar” is the biggest standout on this front with its fluctuating dynamics, chanted chorus, and dusky breakdown detailing the Roman Empire as metaphor for abuse of power. “The Furor” and “Burnin’ Alive” even tap into contemporary issues like the Waco siege and the Clinton presidency for extra uncanniness. These aren’t the deepest insights, especially when going back and forth with some of this raunchy teenage boy fodder, but it is a neat change of pace.

Ballbreaker falls a little short of the hype built up by The Razors Edge, but it’s a solid effort that makes do on its throwback aspirations. The rather monotone pacing is the sort of thing that would become another bad habit, but the production and playing are worth the price of admission to the point that I lament that more of their albums didn’t sound like this. It’s also cool to see the lyrics start to matter a little more again, even if the duality of the themes at play can seem a little at odds with each other at times. Had the writing been as tight as the execution, we’d be talking about some top tier AC/DC.



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user ratings (578)
3
good
other reviews of this album
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NickGrouwen (5)
THIS IS GONNA BE HARD AS A ROCK AND LONG AS MY COCK...



Comments:Add a Comment 
zaruyache
March 25th 2023


26172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

it's a shame how good this album sounds compared to the compositional quality of most of the songs. It's probably worse than Flick of the Switch but sounds ten times better

manosg
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2023


12675 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good point! This was my first AC/DC album.

Donchivo
March 25th 2023


1729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review!

I generally don't think this album is very exciting, but The Furor with it's build up and subdued atmosphere is an underrated deep cut and might be my favorite post Razors Edge AC/DC song.

rockarollacola
March 26th 2023


2029 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yet again, I love this album and think it's super underrated.

Muzz79
March 26th 2023


2471 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Saw them on this tour the night before my final HS exams started. Good times



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