Thunderstruckby Brandon Edmonds / 03.06.2010
I come not to bury AC/DC but to praise them. First though: things that
defeat irony and remain defiantly good in themselves. Let’s make a list. There’s ah… well, um. Cheesecake. Cheese anything, really. True originality (good luck tracking down the last of that). Billie Holiday. Old jeans. Good sex. That first morning of a long weekend. Togetherness. The first flush of punk rock. Holding a new born baby. Politeness. Marlboro lights. Vladimir Nabokov. Swimming after dark. The Big Lebowski. Dimples. Having your name breathed into your ear by someone special. Old friends. Peace, love, understanding (as Elvis Costello reminded us). Okay that’s more than enough of that – we’re morphing into Fair Lady over here! Safe to say, good things abide, living has its rewards, and I’m rooting around lazily in the what to write about without really stretching myself drawer.
Point is, add AC/DC to the list.
Seriously though I’m increasingly over ‘indie rock’. By that I mean chiming guitars, skinnyness, lyrics that would rather be water-boarded than suffer standard pop speak like ‘baby’ and ‘girl, you know it’s true’ etc. Anything with outsized ambition, psyche-rock meandering, squalls and bleeps, complex song structures and folk headed acoustic minimalism. It’s all there, it’s all indie. It’s dripping off sites like blender and pitchfork and cokemachineglow. I download it and live with it and really most of these bands fall away like ice chunks in Greenland. A song may sting and last, but generally nothing sticks.
I like the new Joanna Newsome, Titus Andronicus, Male Bonding, Girls, War on Drugs, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the National, Broken Social Scene, the New Pornographers etc. But nothing has set up much of a base camp in my brain stem. The new Hold Steady is awful and I’m holding thumbs for the new Arcade Fire next month, but ho hum advance tracks suggest a watered down return to Funeral.
The only bands that have really hit home in the last few years have been TV on the Radio, the Knife, the Fiery Furnaces and the XX. Each definitive, inventive and unusual. Mostly though its indie business as usual. Strip mining scenes and sounds long gone. Re-doing, cutting and editing, spent social moments and lapsed musical forms. It’s so much re-vivified archaeology really. A set of jump leads attached to the balls of the extant body of rock and pop (and really it’s balls we’re talking about, indie music is relentlessly masculine despite itself) sending fresh currents of hope and ambition through them over and over again. Otherwise its chorus verse chorus. Quirky aside here, neat concept there, a passing hot bassist crush, drums and diminishing returns. Thank God for MIA whose work continues to expand popular music’s reach and relevance.
Which brings us to AC/DC.
We just had a dinner thing where I live and it kind of swelled into a dance, a dinner dance, like they used to do in Harlem in the 1940s, when black GIs still couldn’t get into clubs, so they made do at home. It was rad. We pushed the sofa out of the way, and made a charmed circle on the scuffed floor to dance. Then someone put on ‘Thunderstruck’. Fuck me, what a song. It roars at you. It’s call to move is undeniable. That rolling bass and rollicking lead. That supernatural chorus. This is bar music taken even higher than Led Zeppelin’s cosmic reach. It has the immediacy of a bullet fired. You actually punch the air. I haven’t punched the air in genuine excitement since who knows, since Lady Diana died I guess. Just kidding. Infectious is what it is. A song from a band in complete control of their strengths. It was a lesson in indie snobbery.
I had turned my back on AC/DC long ago thanks to their piss poor look. The lead singer looks like he just beat up an entire busload of wounded Pakistani orphans and the little blonde dwarf in the schoolboy outfit wasn’t doing them any favors either. But they burn through all that horseshit. Irony, artifice, conscious self-referencing, hipper than though forays into unlikely genre mashing. Uh uh. Fuck the look. They got a sound and an energy every budding indie outfit needs to tap into and draw from. It boils down to the capacity to shake a room with bodies jumping up and down.
The woman next door eventually called the police. When I felt my T-Shirt the next morning, it was still wet right through. That’s what a real band can do.