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!!!!
“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