Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Great Song - "Kicked in the Teeth" - AC/DC - 1978

AC/DC have a huge canon of well-known, beloved songs all more than worthy of their popularity. Despite the fact that they're overplayed by classic rock radio repeatedly, I never get tired of "Highway to Hell," "You Shook Me All Night Long" or "Back in Black." They're that good. Casual fans without an appetite for multiple purchases seem to stick with Back in Black and consider their AC/DC collection complete. Or maybe they don't even know any better. When I was sharing my plans with a co-worker to see the band on the Black Ice tour she replied, "AC/DC - oh, yeah! I have their album!" And while any band in the world would likely sell their soul for a record half as good and successful as Back in Black, any true-blue AC/DC fan will tell you that there's a lot more to enjoy if you dig a little deeper.

Powerage (Dlx)One deep cut one of the less-celebrated albums of the Bon Scott era that always makes my playlist is "Kicked in the Teeth" from 1978's Powerage. Nestled in between Let There Be Rock and Highway to Hell, Powerage brought AC/DC closer to the Top 100 and introduced us to bassist, Cliff Williams. A rock-solid slab of hard and heavy blues-tinged numbers, Powerage gets very little, if any, play on the radio and is frequently acknowledged as a favorite of other musicians, most notably Keith Richards. There's not a weak point from beginning to end and, in my opinion, the album's closer, "Kicked in the Teeth," is also its high point.

Bon Scott's a capella intro with trade-off answers by the band builds anticipation, layered upon by some brief Angus solo notes. With a "Hey!" the band takes off double-time, riding the bouncing boxcar that is Cliff Williams' bassline. The song rip-roars into a bluesy rave-up and not even halfway through we're treated to trademark Angus Young guitar pyrotechnics for over a minute of the four-minute number. Bon's scream is at its absolute best, growing in rasp and desperation with every verse and the number ends as abruptly as it starts.

"Kicked in the Teeth" offers no insane hooks, no memorable riffs. "Kicked in the Teeth" instead illustrates what lies beyond "Thunderstruck," "Long Way to the Top" and the other AC/DC numbers that make classic rock radio (as incredible as they are): AC/DC's "other songs" are, hands down, better rock and roll than most bands' biggest hits.

AC/DC have long avoided both iTunes and assembly of a hits collection (though their two soundtrack albums serve as piecemeal versions of the latter), preferring their albums to be enjoyed just as that - full-length presentations of songs. I admire them for sticking to their guns. They've been accused of making the same album over and over but when they're filled with songs like "Kicked in the Teeth" who would want anything different?

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