The Saturday Review

City Times brings you another round-up of what’s hot and what’s not from the world of music

By Adam Zacharias

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Published: Sat 15 May 2010, 6:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:49 PM

AC/DC – IRON MAN 2 SOUNDTRACK

Rock and roll survivalists AC/DC pocket a bumper paycheque by agreeing to lend their name to the Iron Man 2 soundtrack – all without having to lift a finger.

Let’s get down to the numbers first. The album features a buffet of the Sydney band’s finest tracks – 15 to be precise – over the course of 10 albums and 33 years, and featuring their two vocalists Bon Scott (1974 to 1980) and Brian Johnson (1980 to present day).

However, there are no new songs and those behind the release refuse to label it a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation. I can’t argue with them, in fairness, given that my personal favourite You Shook Me All Night Long fails to make the cut.

The marriage of AC/DC with the Iron Man film franchise is a wholly logical one: both are loud, brash, unashamedly jacked up to the nines and appeal to our petulant and destructive inner teenage boy (mine’s called Nathaniel).

As one would expect, nay demand, amps are ratcheted up to 11 throughout and the pace is rarely anything short of thumping, although passing fans of the dinosaur rockers are only likely to recognise a small handful of songs featured – specifically Back in Black and Highway to Hell.

The former’s infamous guitar riff comes lugging into sight with friendly familiarity, and will no doubt remind aspiring axemen young and old what separates Angus Young from the rest of us – asides from his perseverance with schoolboy clothing into his mid-50s.

The Razor’s Edge and Thunderstruck both crank up the creepy factor, with their hypnotic looping guitar riffs and monkish chanting giving an unsettling Wicker Man fervour to proceedings. No wonder they used to think rock and roll came straight from the devil himself.

Among the more obscure tracks, Cold Hearted Man is memorable – bluesy and ever so slightly softer than the trademark AC/DC sound, Bon Scott’s versatile performance is a joy to behold, as he sings, squeals and sneers his way through the tune.

Wisely, the compilers have given the necessary nod to the band’s seminal work, 1980’s Back in Black – the second best-selling album of all time behind Thriller with a staggering 50 million units shifted. Thankfully though, they haven’t gone overboard, selecting a sensible three tracks (Shoot to Thrill, Back in Black, Have A Drink On Me).

And, to neatly bookend this retrospective of AC/DC’s career, there is a sole inclusion from their most recent album of original material. War Machine, taken from 2008’s return to glory Black Ice, shows the group are still as loud and lairy as ever they ever were. If anything, Brian Johnson’s voice has become even scratchier and more emotive with age.

This LP could serve as a useful introduction for AC/DC to Iron Man 2s teen and twentysomething demographic, many of whom will be unfamiliar with the quintet’s legacy. But, as a new album in its own right, it’s little more than a fanboy’s mixtape. Nothing to shriek about.

RATING: 6 out of 10

Choice picks: Back in Black, Cold Hearted Man, Thunderstruck

BIFFY CLYRO – BUBBLES (single)

SNATCHING YOUR ATTENTION from the very first twiddled guitar riff, Bubbles builds on Biffy Clyro’s reputation as one of the UK’s few hard rock acts that can also master a mainstream melody.

The single, taken from latest album Only Revolutions, refrains from breaking out into straight-out headbanger territory until the final few bars. Instead, it ticks along with James Johnston’s sturdy bass work juxtaposed by some crafty little flashes of intricate guitar.

Singer Simon Neil adopts his ‘sad anthem’ voice, used to such impressive effect with 2007’s Folding Stars, with his clear Scottish brogue as winsome as ever. The tune begins heating up as the minutes pass, threatening to unleash some beastly ball of distortion, before finally making good on its promise – as the Scottish trio indulge in a short-lived bout of rocking out with the help of Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, putting in a guest appearance.

Sure to become a staple part of the band’s live set list, Bubbles is a purpose-built crowd favourite.

RATING: 8 out of 10

SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR – BITTERSWEET (single)

CHANNELLING THE GHOST of ABBA, wide-faced singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases an inoffensive piece of disco-pop prior to the launch of her fourth album Straight to the Heart.

Ellis-Bextor’s ability to remain cheerily detached in her vocals has long been both her strength and her weakness. The British performer’s pragmatic personality shuns the octave-whizzing pomp of an Aguilera, the Grrrl-power feistiness of a Perry or the ‘woe-is-me’ balladry of a Pink.

In other words, you can rely on her music to always be pitched somewhere around the pretty/fluffy/shiny mark – a simple package which will never see her scale the heights of pop stardom, but has nonetheless provided the 31-year-old with an already lengthy career in poptown.

Bittersweet, unsurprisingly, doesn’t see the mother-of-two attempt any kind of rulebook-ripping reinvention, but it wisely emphasises her mellifluous style to complement the track’s retro smoothness.

Ellis-Bextor aside, there’s plenty of whooshing and sparkly effects going on in the background – think The Human League after a trip to the seaside – to get the listener feeling all silly and summery. And, in that respect, this May release is right on the button for its UK audience, who are optimistically awaiting a shred of sunshine at last.

RATING: 7 out of 10

On the radar

Who we’ve been listening to this week
Fountains of Wayne – I’ve Got A Flair

Taken from their group’s skuzzy-yet-bouncy debut, which drew Weezer comparisons aplenty, I’ve Got A Flair is built with the expert precision the Japanese put into building cars (Hondas that is, not Toyotas).

Spacehog – Carry On

Now known as the ex-husband and babydada of Liv Tyler, Royston Langdon enjoyed his 90s heyday gurgling out pleasing sofa rock numbers such as this. The Yorkshire singer and his gang of rockers enjoyed moderate success Stateside, thanks largely to their (albeit inconsistent) ability to write a cracking tune.

Lucky 7 – If You Fall

Grittier than Green Day and less juvenile than Blink 182, Lucky 7 somehow missed Southern California’s gold-rimmed boat to pop-punk stardom. If You Fall is one of their more melodic efforts.

The BBC Radio One Top 10 singles (UK)

1.ROLL DEEP

Good Times

2.USHER FT. WILL.I.AM

OMG

3. PLAN B

She Said

4. PENDULUM

Watercolour

5. AGGROS SANTOS FT. KIMBERLY WYATT

Candy

6. TAIO CRUZ FT. KE$HA

Dirty Picture

7. CHIPMUNK FT.

ESMEE DENTERS

Until You Were Gone

8. DIANA VICKERS

Once

9. PROFESSOR GREEN FT. ED DREWETT

I Need You Tonight

10.KELIS

Acapella

(source: www.bbc.co.uk)

The BBC Radio One Top 10 albums (UK)

1. DIANA VICKERS

Songs From the Tainted Cherry Tree

2.PLAN B

The Defamation of

Strickland Banks

3. AC/DC

Iron Man 2 (Original Soundtrack)

4.USHER

Raymond V Raymond

5.LADY GAGA

The Fame

6.FLORENCE & THE MACHINE

Lungs

7.JUSTIN BIEBER

My World

8. LADY

ANTEBELLUM

Need You Now

9.PAOLO NUTINI

Sunny Side Up

10.BLACK EYED PEAS

(source: www.bbc.co.uk)

adam@khaleejtimes.com



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