[Album review] AC/DC | Fly On The Wall

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.

19 comments

  1. Psst …Cliff Williams not Johnson. I know you know that.

    This has some of my favourite tracks, but some of my least favourite too. The sound is the big issue with me.

    Like

  2. Best wishy- washy review ever!
    I like this album when the mood hits for a no frills no singles kinda album. Sometimes less is totally more when it comes to these guys!
    I was in Grade 12 when this came out and my English teacher went bonkers when he brought up Sink The Pink in class. He couldn’t believe that AC/DC could stoop to that level.
    One of my classmates said all AC/DC albums are at that level! hahaha
    That was a great day in Highschool!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m gonna go all out and give this a score of 1 out of 5. I just don’t like it. Even when taken as an AC/DC album, it’s the least memorable of those I’ve heard (most of them at this stage).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Flick is OK. Just rushed and lacks polish. Mutt did an excellent job on the first two he worked on but I think he overdid it on FTATR. The guitars sound amazing on that album though. As for Fly… They just went too far when trying to sound separate themselves from the rest of the MTV bands. I would love for it to get a remix someday.

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    1. Those videos made no sense! But they were forced into doing the MTV thing. Flick of the Switch didn’t sell as well as the previous albums and they phoned in the videos for it. I do like Fly, it is just not as good when compared to the rest of the bands albums. I think I would like it even more if they gave it a remix.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll go as far as saying I prefer ‘Flick of the Switch’ over ‘Fly on the Wall.’ The lyrics weren’t selling for me either, especially for “Danger.” But yeah, it sucks how they got sucked into the music video world and unfortunately now it’s all about the videos!

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