For the second album in a row AC/DC’s founding members, Angus and Malcolm Young recorded sans producer. And if you listen to Angus in interviews from the mid-80’s, he is big on “not bull shitting the kids”. In other words, being something that you are not.
That meant avoiding what was trendy at the time like synths and drum pads. And it would have been very easy for them to do so. Especially since their previous two albums (For Those About To Rock and Flick of the Switch) fell short of the comparative sales of Back In Black.
Instead, the Youngs stayed committed to the traditional four-on-four rock that made them who they are. They wanted AC/DC to stand out among the polished glam/hair metal bands that flooded MTV in 1985. Be the different band that was still delivering a “pure” rock sound.
You have to admire how they stuck their guns but they overcompensated a wee bit on Fly. At times that “raw” sound works well but most of the album needed more time in the oven.
The band’s newest member (and Phil Rudd’s replacement) drummer Simon Wright is mic’d with a large echo. It’s his first recording with AC/DC and he sounds like he is slapping the lids of trash cans in the men’s room. And he is LOUD. Drums overpower all else on Fly.
Meanwhile, bassist Cliff Williams is barely audible. I’m talking Jason Newsted …And Justice for All level. You have to really crank the volume if you want evidence that Cliff showed up to the studio.
Then there are the vocals. Lead singer Brian Johnson is mixed well on some of the tunes, like on Danger where he can be heard well enough. But most of the time he buried so far down in the mix he sounds like he is singing through a wall instead.
The lack of production would be easier to overlook if the songs were stronger. The album’s top two tunes, Sink the Pink and Shake Your Foundations are great. Malcolm lays down some nice crunchy rhythm chords that Angus floats along the top of with a light bouncy lead. The lyrics are fun and they both feature memorable chorus. It’s classic AC/DC.
The rest of the album isn’t crafted nearly as well. The lyrics are an issue for one. That one line in First Blood:
Some like it hot,
And some like it… not so hot,
Oof. Seriously. That pause is there. Like he doesn’t know what to say. They left that in. Then in Send For The Man:
You make a black sheep a ram,
This ain’t no gun in my pocket,
I got the goods in my hand
Black sheep a ram? And what is in your hand? It is just plain silly. Even for AC/DC.
But, like I said… it’s not THAT bad.
It is easy to pick apart Fly’s tunes individually, but collectively they make for a good rockin’ time that appeals to my caveman half. Send for the Man might not have the best lyrics, but damn that is a big/heavy/catchy riff. Come Hell Or High Water, Back in Business, Playing with girls… all of these tunes still have their charm.
Fly did get a remaster in 2003 that didn’t improve the mix enough for me. What does sound great is the remixed version of Shake Your Foundations on Who Made Who. Early AC/DC producers George Young and Harry Vanda remixed it with great results.
Angus and Malcolm were right to keep away from the drum machines and keytars, but I think a little assistance was in order behind the board.
As an AC/DC album: 2/5
Compared to everything else: 2.5/5
Be sure to check out Blogger for the Bold, Super Dekes‘ review of Fly On The Wall right here.
Once you’re done with that you’ll want to check out what they are saying about Fly on Keeps Me Alive right here.