Angus took his guitar and beat me into submission until I bowed to his rock alter. I never thought I would review a new AC/DC track. I also never thought I would love a new AC/DC track…but here we are. The Australian icons are back. I must admit, I went into this track thinking it was a quick cash grab by an ageing rock band banking on nostalgia. However, I never knew nostalgia would feel so kick ass. I must admit, I am more of a fan of the Bon Scott era and only have passing interest in the Brian Johnson era. For me, AC/DC with Bon Scott is some perfect rock and roll that has few equals. Just listen to High Voltage or Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap for some amazing rock and roll. However, this track grabbed me and would not let me go. If you ever listened to Back in Black, there is nothing new here that you have not heard before, but that is what makes Shot in the Dark so great.
AC/DC is a relic of a bygone rock era, which was dominated by male led guitar based rock bands. You took as many guitars as you could, mixed in some heavy percussion and sprinkled a macho male lead vocal and viola, you had a rock band. Bands like The Strokes, The Killers and Wolfmother tried to breathe new life into the 1970s / 1980s guitar dominated rock of AC/DC and Van Helen, but it never really reached its previous heights. Lo-fi two piece bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys left them in their dust. Shot in the Dark reminds us what we have been missing and put guitar driven classic rock back on the scene.
Ok. Let’s get the lyrics out of the way. For me, saying you judge AC/DC for their lyrics is like watching Fast and Furious 8 and saying, “Well, actually, the car wouldn’t blow up like that in real life.” You know what you’re getting. I don’t care what Brian Johnson sings as long as it sounds like a glass of 150 proof whiskey mixed with broken glass. You want your real life Mr. “Well Actually,” go watch the BBC. AC/DC is like watching American Ninja and following it up with slamming a shot of alcohol that’s on fire. Throw safety to the wind and go with it. I mean, the first verse is: “I need a pick me up, a Rollin’ Thunder truck / I need a shot of you / That tattooed lady wild like a mountain lion / I got a hunger, that’s the lovin’ truth.” I just typed those lyrics and I have already forgotten them. It’s like the cotton candy of music. Sweet and great in the moment, but vanish almost as quickly as you consume it. Let’s be honest, the lyrics are there more for an excuse to have Johnson scream into a mic and get your blood pumping. So, we won’t look at them too closely.
Walt Whitman it’s not, but when I listen to AC/DC I want the musical version of The Rock punching a T-Rex in the face. On that note, Shot in the Dark delivers. The track itself has this opening wall of guitar that will melt your face. Angus kicks it off with an unassuming classic riff, which opens the door for the rest of the band to come in and blow you away. It is a mix between classic 4/4 blues and some late 70s classic rock flames. All at once this track was both exactly what I needed in 2020 and yet felt so familiar that I could not imagine life without it. The propulsive drums of Phil Rudd drive the song and give it an infectious energy. Even though the drums keep time and give you a needed hit in the chest, the song’s success hangs on Angus Young’s guitar. I think Angus is an underrated guitarist who is at the core of AC/DC’s iconic sound. His ability to flip from blues riffs to classic rock and roll guitar solo bravado is seamless and shows that he can still bring it.
Even though AC/DC has slowed down a little, Shot in the Dark shows that they can still rock. This song is more of a street fight against father time than a song. It is a miracle that Johnson can still speak, let alone belt out verses in his telltale gravely fire breathing vocals. He more erupts each verse than sings them. Angus, Phil, Cliff and Stevie are incredibly tight and effortlessly recreate the sound AC/DC fans fell in love with during the 80s. Most importantly, this track is a welcoming set of devil horns that will help ground you in these chaotic times. You know, no matter what happens, AC/DC can still melt your face with rock…and that is reassuring.
Listen to Shot in the Dark