Part 1 of a 2-part series on this album. Part 2 will come when I acquire the version with the bonus live disc!
AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (2000 Warner)
One doesn’t so much review an AC/DC album as just tell the listener what the songs are called. Stiff Upper Lip is a bit of an exception to that rule for me, as it seemed to be a really solid return to an early-1970’s form. Just listen to the irresistible “Hold Me Back”. Can’t you imagine Bon singing this one?
My first AC/DC album was Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap. I grew up listening to Bon, and Stiff Upper Lip is the most rock n’ roll sounding AC/DC album since his death. It seems they dropped some (but certainly not all) of the heavy riffing, leaving room for Malcolm and Angus to weave together some tasty guitar lines into song. Phil Rudd’s simple metronomic rhythms are perfectly suited to this approach.
When they do get their riff on, it’s on tracks like the relentless “Safe in New York City”. Yet I keep coming back to the laid back picking style of tunes like “Can’t Stand Still”. It doesn’t get much simpler nor satisfying.
The album was produced by Harry Vanda and George Young, much like the classic of old. They captured great performances, clear and uncluttered. Not every song here is a winner, most Johnson-era albums have filler. Stiff Upper Lip‘s filler ratio is remarkably low.
A European/Australian exclusive “tour edition” contained a bonus CD with an unreleased track (“Cyberspace”) and five live tracks. Most of this material is also available on the massive Backtracks box set. But we’ll talk about that bonus disc another time…
When I need to hear some more recent AC/DC, 9 times out of 10, I reach for Stiff Upper Lip.