ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 11, 2000
By Steve Newton
It’s hard to believe that the scruffy Aussie hooligans who blessed rock music with the blues-metal masterwork Back in Black are now content to churn out such substandard fare as Stiff Upper Lip. Don’t be fooled by the CD’s spirited title track, which is also the strategically placed opening number and first single. Right after that things go downhill fast.
As soon as Angus Young’s catchy boogie lick on “Lip” fades, the band heads into monotonous material with “Meltdown”, a midtempo mess that shows how feeble the brotherly songwriting team of Angus and Malcolm Young has become. “Man it’s gettin’ hot, hot, hot,” blathers lead screamer Brian Johnson, “I said man it’s gettin’ hot, hot, hot/It’s gettin’ hotter/And hotter/Man it’s gettin’ hot, hot, gettin’ hot around here.”
Nobody expects profound lyrics from AC/DC—quite the opposite—but when insipid lines like that are laid out without any exhilarating riffs or bracing progressions to shroud their shortcomings, it’s trouble time. The next track, “House of Jazz”, is even more tedious, and all Johnson’s frenzied bellowing of “Humdinger!” and “Bellringer!” can’t liven things up.
To be fair, songs like “Satellite Blues” and “Give It Up” do hint at the gutsy AC/DC of old, but there’s still no denying that three-quarters of Stiff Upper Lip falls into mediocre territory. It’s nearly enough to make long-time fans of raunchy guitar rock throw their hands up in disgust and start listening to gangsta rap.
But not quite.