[Album Review] AC/DC | Ballbreaker

 

It was 25 years ago today, September 26th, 1995, when I skipped my morning classes at Canadore College and on hopped on a bus headed for the Northgate Mall in North Bay.  I was stoked because this was going to be the first time I would be purchasing a new AC/DC album on release day as a hard core fan.

I know most people have stories of waiting in huge lines or going to special mid-night openings to be there for a major release.  Not me.  I arrived to a nearly empty mall at 8AM.  I forgot how the mall would open, but the stores remained closed until 9.  Typical me.

Luckily there was the food court.  It was only a third full, mostly with old men sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, taking up space.  A great way to avoid the wife and read a complimentary newspaper or two.  I found a table with an abandoned Toronto Sun but I was too excited concentrate on it.

I had already heard Ballbreaker’s first single, Hard As A Rock.  I commanded the shared TV in the common area on the day Much Music was to debut the video.  I had this special privilege because I owned its VCR.  If they wanted to use it, they had to let me take over the TV from time to time.  I think all they ever played on it was repeated viewings of Pulp Fiction and a lesbian porno called No Men For Miles.  

When Hard as A Rock finally came on, each of my roomies wrote it off in about 20 seconds.  “It’s just another another Thunderstruck”… OK… I admit… it wasn’t going to set the world on fire, but I didn’t think it sounded anything like Thunderstruck.  Well, they were all into grunge anyway.

Back at the mall, I was the only first one through the doors at Music World.  There was no special display or anything.  Heck, they didn’t even have an AC/DC section.  I grabbed one lowly copy of Ballbreaker sitting under the generic “A’s”.  Man, grunge did a number on hard rock for a while. 

After I paid for my CD, the cute girl behind the counter handed me my receipt and a double sided Ballbreaker poster!!!!

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“Wow, I didn’t know I it was coming with a poster!”, I said.

I got a flat “Yep” for a response. 

Well, no Sara Gilbert in High Fidelity moment for this guy. 

Maybe I would have done better if I was buying Frogstomp.

Ballbreaker didn’t blow me away when I got it home.  Maybe I needed to let it sink in after a few more spins.  But that didn’t work.  I had to admit, Ballbreaker was just… OK.

I think AC/DC had wanted two things for the album that conflicts with each other.  One is to achieve a retro tone.  To have a little less polish and go for a the raw sound they had on the albums before the making it big.  I think this was a direct response to what was happening with rock music at the time.

But they also didn’t want to ignore the major success that was The Razors Edge from only five years prior.  That album sported some slick production from Bruce Fairbairn, and was seen by many to as a comeback album of sorts.

Legendary producer Rick Rubin was hired to work on Ballbreaker but he kept them on the back burner, delaying the album for at least a year while his focus was on the new hotness, The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  But only so much blame can be left at the feet of a producer.  Honestly, the song writing is just not there.

Save for the album’s finale tune, Ballbreaker, Ballbreaker is sluggish, mid-tempo riffs strung together.  It’s a funk that it can’t work its way out of.  We were promised hard as a rock and instead we got limp as a sock.

As and AC/DC album: 2/5
Compared to the rest of music: 2.5/5

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23 comments

  1. They say the title is the first chance to ‘hook’ the reader – with a post, I sometimes see the tags before the title, and in this case, I simply had to read on to see what ‘limp socks’ had to do with ACDC.
    And although the album wasn’t all that great, the post about its acquisition was. Nice one, Kevin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story. Way better than this album. Not one I ever got in to. You are right, by the time this came out, rock was not a big draw anymore. I think I only stood in line for a midnight drop once in my release day buying. Now I just hope Amazon delivers it on release day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great backstory Kev!
    I purchased this a few days after it had been out. When Thunderstruck dropped 5 years earlier it grabbed you by the neck and made you take notice.
    Hard As A Rock didn’t do that as a first single. Fair rating really that you have given it. The title track though is phenomenal.
    I read Fairbairn was in line to do this album but couldn’t as he was producing VH. Then AC/DC wanted to use him for Stiff Upper Lip and Bruce died. I always wondered how Ballbreaker would have turned out with Bruce behind the dials. If anything Bruce would have been in the studio more than Rubin that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We can only wonder what Bruce would have done with this album. It feels like the tempo just needs to be jacked up one of a few of these. Oh, well. They can’t all be winners. The final track is awesome though. It is definitely the one that stands out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think Hard as a Rock sounds at all like Thunderstruck. It’s not the same tempo at all. I guess the videos have similarities.

    Yep this is fair. You didn’t rake them over the coals as much as you could have. I mean, Cover You in Oil? I didn’t wanna hear that.

    I was working at the Record Store. I remember a review a trade magazine said “You don’t so much as review an AC/DC album as announce its arrival and get out of the way.” But it sold sluggishly all year and when I heard it, only the title track stood out. Hail Caesar.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ll admit some of the songs on that album just sounded blah to me, especially “Caught You with Your Pants Down,” like how the hell did they come up with that title?!?! I think “Thunderstruck” and “Hard as a Rock” sound a little similar since it’s the same three chords, but a lot of AC/DC songs sound similar so. While I don’t agree with all of your points, I thought the “limp as a sock” part was hilarious!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I caught em live during this tour and they only played three songs, the two singles and the title track. The songs worked well mixed in with the other live songs.

    I read that because of the success of The Razors Edge album and how the Young brothers wrote all those songs without any involvement from Johnson, they took a more iron fist approach to the songwriting on this album and all other contributions from others were rejected.

    Liked by 1 person

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