Flick Of The Switch


Atlantic Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I have seen AC/DC's 1983 effort Flick Of The Switch poo-poohed so much in the press, and by fans as well. I might be one of the few people out there who is bold enough to say, it's not a bad album. I mean, if it came down to listening to this album or having to do beekeeping naked, the choice would be easy.

But by 1983, the juggernaut of AC/DC's popularity was grinding down. The material that Angus Young and crew was putting out was nowhere near as stellar as the songs that made up Back In Black. Even their chart-topping album For Those About To Rock We Salute You was not on the same level.

Add to this that producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, for whatever reason, was not involved in this album, and that tensions in the band were rising to the point that drummer Phil Rudd was about to make his exit. (I won't get into the rumored reasons for his departure.) By all rights, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Flick Of The Switch should have been a disaster.

In some senses, it has the signs of trouble clearly evident. The overall sound of the album, which was the first (and, so far, only one) produced by the whole band, is muddy. The crispness that Lange brought to the mix is gone, and AC/DC just don't have the studio panache to pull it off.

Also, some of the material sounds like leftovers the band decided to throw together. Cuts like "Deep In The Hole," "Brain Shake" and "Bedlam In Belgium" are not exactly AC/DC's finest moments. (I swear, if I ever get the chance again to talk to Angus Young, I'm going to ask him what the title of "Bedlam In Belgium" means.)

But in the midst of the mediocrity, there are flashes of the old AC/DC. "Nervous Shakedown" is a plodding number that is sure to set your neck snapping and the air guitar wailing. "Badlands" is not as strong an example, but is an enjoyable number. The crowning moment is "Guns For Hire," the track that easily could have been a hit single. (Coming in a close second is "This House Is On Fire".)

But in the end, what stands out on Flick Of The Switch is the mediocre material. Tracks like "Rising Power," "Landslide" and the title cut all show that AC/DC was a band in serious need of a vacation. They did take one, and regrouped with new drummer Simon Wright (though Fly On The Wall - a grossly underrated album in my book - hardly lit the world on fire).

Side note: At one time about 14 years ago, MTV was showing a live concert of AC/DC from the Flick Of The Switch tour, recorded in Detroit. If you have the home video Who Made Who, the version of "For Those About To Rock We Salute You" is from that show; if you have the "Who Made Who" single, the live version of "Guns For Hire" is from the Joe Louis Arena. I seriously wish that Atlantic (or Elektra, or whoever considers themselves AC/DC's label these days) would release this show, 'cause it made some of this material sound great. If anyone has this show, let me know. (Editor's note: Since this review ran, I have indeed obtained the video of this show.)

Rating: C+

User Rating: B+



© 1999 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.