REVIEW: AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988)

AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988, 2003 Epic remaster)

By 1988, AC/DC had abandoned the bare-bones live-style music videos they had been doing for the last few years, and went into full-on productions.  That became AC/DC’s trademark style from that point forward: the band playing in front of an eager crowd, and crazy stuff going on around them. Explosions, lights, wrecking balls or what have you — this all became part of the AC/DC music video experience, with Angus stomping around front and center. “Who Made Who” was really the first of the big AC/DC videos of this style. “Heatseeker” continued the tradition, with Angus popping out of a missile!

“Heatseeker” was an explosive first single, but unexpectedly, it was not really representative of Blow Up Your Video as an album.  The highschool halls were filled with mutterings that the new AC/DC was “not as good” as past AC/DC, and that was troubling.  Blow Up Your Video proved to be a transitional album, as many changes were afoot for AC/DC.

Malcolm Young had hit rock bottom, in the depths of a drinking problem that was starting to take its toll on the band on the concert stage.  He was unable to tour.  Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young stepped up, and helped the boys out on tour.  (Nobody would ever imagine that Stevie would have to do it permanently in 2014 when Malcolm withdrew from the band due to dementia.)  Drummer Simon Wright wouldn’t last either.  After the tour, he left to join Dio.  It was also the last album to which Brian Johnson wrote any lyrics.

On the other hand, the chemistry with producers Harry Vanda and George Young (an older brother) had never been better.  They helmed the classic AC/DC albums with Bon Scott, as well as three more recent songs on 1986’s Who Made Who.  It was thought that they would bring that old time rock and roll slant back to AC/DC, so they were retained for Blow Up Your Video.

“Heatseeker”, being so upbeat and catchy with just a hint of a jangle in the guitars, was certainly promising.  Like a one-two punch, the second single “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock N Roll” is next.  The production holds it back, lacking punch (especially on the drums), but it’s a killer AC/DC good time rock and roller.  Weak sonics aside, few AC/DC albums begin with two big winners like this right from the get-go.

Things get funky from there.  “Meanstreak” does have a bit of funk to it, but suffers again from a muddy sound and too much echo on the vocals and drums.  The further one delves into Blow Up Your Video, it seems like the songs aren’t so bad, just the sound.  Same with “Go Zone”.  There’s nothing wrong with the tune, but it seems to drag and fumble in a muddy puddle with the tires spinning.  The side one closer “Kissin’ Dynamite” has a smoky prowling guitar and so sounds more at home.  At least the side is salvaged by this last tune.

Since AC/DC offloaded their two singles right off the bat on side one, the second side is a much more turgid affair.  “Nick of Time” has a blasts of guitars exactly where you want them, but lacks hooks.  “Some Sin For Nuthin'” is better, because it’s back to that menacing dusky prowl that AC/DC do so well.  Finally, AC/DC hit all the buttons with “Ruff Stuff”, a mid-tempo rocker with an actual chorus and verses that you can remember!  “Two’s Up” is of similar quality, another decent album rocker good enough for rock and roll.

Finally, “This Means War” ends the album on a frantic, unfocused note.  It has the energy and fire lacking on earlier songs, but has nothing else.  Simon Wright is perfectly behind the beat, and Angus’ fingers sure are flying…but is that enough?  For AC/DC, it is not.

The album sold a measly million copies in the US  and failed to crack the top ten.  Needing to do better, Bruce Fairbairn was called upon when needed for The Razors Edge.  Since then, Blow Up Your Video has remained under its large, looming shadow, and for good reason.

2.5/5 stars

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53 comments

        1. I used to come home and write the setlist out the moment I got in the door. And now that you can check a setlist archive online, I see that I’ve only ever mixed up song order but never missed a song!

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  1. Loved the two singles. This was the first album of theirs I ever got a hold of but I can’t remember much about it and wasn’t too impressed. The singles and Two’s Up are about the only songs I can even remember from it. Took me a while to bother with them after hearing it cause I just assumed they were shite. Then a friend played the Dirty Deeds album and that won me over. But this review is making me feel all nostalgic… might have to get a copy of this now.

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  2. I actually liked that album when it came out, but possibly mainly because it was AC/DC and not for legit reasons. I think when a band you loves puts out a lesser album, you play it.so much and try and force yourself to like it. For that reason/I think I like it better than I should.
    Nice write up. I might find it hard being as objective with AC/DC.

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    1. Thank you Jay! I like your comment best, because I think context is very important. I always try to incorporate context in my reviews because I think it’s critical. Cheers and thanks again!

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  3. Enjoyed this, except I think you’re too generous on the mark at the end. This was the first AC/DC album they bought out after I’d become a fan, the first gig I ever went to as well – the gig was great and I played this over and over trying to get into it, without any joy. (weeps)

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  4. This album is crap. Even Fly On The Wall is better which kinda speak volumes about the quality here. I kinda like Heatseeker, but that’s about it. I’d give this on 3/10. Chainsaw time! :-D

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    1. I just didn’t want to be too harsh on it. I mean…I have a hard time judging a poorer album like this. Because some folks inevitably love it, and I want to know what it is the like about it.

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  5. Nope …I dig this and now thanks to Mike I’m gonna have to review it! Hahahaha next week I got ACDC coming up but not this one but at some point I will review this and explain my side to it…I will convert you all! Hahahaha…..

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  6. Great review, Mike! AC/DC is among my all-time favorites but this album didn’t catch my interest. A “transitional time” is an excellent assessment. General upheaval and turmoil can contribute to incredible art, including music. Sometimes though, it’s just disruption that divides rather than ignites.

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    1. Yes it takes all the right circumstances to make incredible art when times are hard. Some of the best albums in rock come from times of turmoil…like Van Halen’s 1984, when they were barely even speaking anymore. And that’s in my top 15.

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  7. Working on my Counter attack on U non believers…..HAHAHHA ……should be posted by saturday special as Friday I have a scheduled Dc album that everyone likes…..I’m gonna syphon that gas out of Jompa’s chainsaw……

    Liked by 1 person

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