Fly On The Wall


Atlantic Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back when I was a teenager, I used to go to a little record shop a bike ride away from where I lived. One summer day in 1985, I found AC/DC's latest, Fly On The Wall, as a cutout for about three dollars. Something was wrong, said the voice of reason in my brain, but I took my new toy home to slap on my cheezy stereo. What I heard was okay, but disappointing. Where the hell was Brian Johnson signing his vocals from - outside the studio? The production sounded crappy; there's reason some people rated this one as AC/DC's worst.

Let's turn the clock forward to today, and see what the technology of the compact disc has done to this album. It has, in fact, given it a whole new life, and people who despised their vinyl copies at the time should pull up a chair, grab a sandwich and a beer, and read on with interest.

AC/DC was definitely in a transition at this time. Long-time drummer Phil Rudd had left the band prior to the start of the Flick Of The Switch tour. New drummer Simon Wright had made it through the tour, but had yet to set foot in a studio with the band. The boys were trying to shake off disappointing sales of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Flick Of The Switch, and wanted to regain their position in the hard rock market.

Sure the songwriting is the cock-rock style that I've so often ridiculed other bands for - hell, this has been AC/DC's whole career. But at least with AC/DC it sounds like they are kidding. Plus, they're not your typical "pretty-boy" band, so it's not like they're singing about getting laid by a different groupie every night. So excuse me if I set my standards aside this time.

I'll concede the songwriting is a tad weaker on Fly On The Wall than on some of their other albums - to name a song "Sink The Pink" today would be asking for trouble. But the groove is the thing here, and Angus Young et al. know how to groove their asses off, and make you do the same. "Playing With Girls" has an incredible groove that they had not captured for some time; Wright's drumming is perfect for this mood.

The first single, "Danger," is a bit of a shift for AC/DC; it's one of the first times they released a song with a plodding beat (though not the first song they wrote with one), making it sound a tad sinister. Another single, "Shake Your Foundations," is another example of groove rock, though the songwriting weaknesses show in the chorus - c'mon, you couldn't do better than "Ai, ai, oh - shake your foundations"?

The title track takes some getting used to, but isn't as bad as some may make it out to be. The rest of the album you will either love or hate - it depends if AC/DC has won you over with the groove on side one (or, for the CD crowd, the first five songs). My opinion: they're good, with "Hell Or High Water" and "Send For The Man" being strong points.

This is a relatively short album - the ten songs clock in at under 40 minutes - but the power contained therein is incredible. (One warning, though - stay far away from the conceptual home video released at the same time. May have been a good idea, but for a band that wasn't into doing videos at this time, not the way to start things out... and I know they did videos before this one. Anyone know where I can find the video for "Jailbreak"?) (Editor's note: Since I wrote this, I did indeed find the "Jailbreak" video, thanks to eBay.)

Fly On The Wall is hardly AC/DC's worst album - it may not be their best, but it is a very good effort that is highly entertaining, and worth a listen. Turned out to be the best $3 I spent at that time.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.