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.