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Thursday, April 29, 2010

CD Review: Airbourne - No Guts. No Glory.

Airbourne - No Guts. No Glory.
2010 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If you want blood, you of course have AC/DC.

If you want Tom Kiefer pulling on a bloody mary at the fore of what is essentially a tribute band penning their own original lyrics, there's Airbourne.

Very tempting to roll out of this review with a 'nuff said because there's no other way to describe the Melbourne AC/DC acolytes. Sure, there's hints of the Scorpions now and then, but like Kix, Krokus, Rhino Bucket and Rose Tattoo before them, all roads lead down the emulated gutters of Young Boulevard in Airbourne. And England has the original Shambles.

Airbourne's 2007 debut Runnin' Wild was an AC/DC variety of The Darkness, less over-the-top, more to the point, but unequivocally a throwback novelty. When your purpose for being is to replicate instead of salute, well, that's flattering to the original source, yes. However, when a second album manifests with every single nugget out of the trick bag straight down to the licks, the solos, the singular bass thrums and the caterwauled backing vocals, it's overkill.

AC/DC at their height is an unstoppable force. The term "piss and vinegar" applies better to them than pomp and circumstance. It's easy to see why so many newer bands like Sound and Fury and Airbourne get excited when standing in the midst of Let There Be Rock and High Voltage. For Airbourne's purposes, those two albums are staked on jumpy ditties like "Raise the Flag" and "Back On the Bottle." Yet No Guts. No Glory. takes more than a lion's share of Razor's Edge era and beyond AC/DC for its so-so pride ride.

By the time Joel O'Keefe wails about getting out on "Bottom of the Well," the lazy drag of the tune (which sounds perfectly snug on AC/DC's ehhh Blow Up Your Video or Ballbreaker albums) coaxes you right out with him. That is, unless you're buying into what Airbourne has to offer, which is a younger, jacked-up version of the original. Where the banner may one day fall, let he with swollen jeans take up the cause.

Seriously, No Guts. No Glory. wears out its welcome by the time "White Line Fever" struts into play. Cool groove, nice rhythm, catchy hook. Too bad the lyrics are the only thing original about it. "Raise the Flag" is a peppy number on the faster side and "It Ain't Over Till It's Over" is a smoker, but you already have Powerage, Highway to Hell and Let There Be Rock in your collection and they're faster to get to if you alphabetize your shelf, A's be damned.

Simplicity speaks, there's no getting around it. Airbourne serves up to the common man, the working stiffs, the downtrodden backbone keeping the world turning. It's why you're looking at artwork featuring rigs, steel workers (Airbourne even gives them their own tip of the hardhat on the pandering "Steel Town" and "No Way but the Hard Way"), knocked over whiskey bottles and of course, chicks. "Blonde, Bad and Beautiful" may not sound like "You Shook Me All Night Long," but it's Airbourne's sequel outlaying what happened once Brian Johnson began his cuckolding business. "Armed and Dangerous" calls out to a worldwide clan of rabble rousers, while "Back On the Bottle" is self-explanatory. Was Bon Scott right to check out at the end of a fifth? According to this song there's no more righteous death.

In other words, all the fundamental demographics which have made AC/DC the commercial sensations they are.

Bitch that Airbourne hoists everything that is AC/DC on No Guts. No Glory. No beating around the bush, it exceeds compliment. Granted, AC/DC was never a complicated bunch of rogues. Their sweaty boogie traces further back to Howlin' Wolf, Big Joe Turner and Leadbelly, yet it was their brash kissing cooze demeanor which has amplified their legend. Airbourne can call the bandwagon to arms in the name of sex, booze and rock 'n roll all they want and there are plenty of nostlagic party animals who will follow. You can't take away Airbourne's energy, which is why you keep letting yourself be suckered all the way through No Guts. No Glory. More than likely, though, you'll feel cheated by album's end, like you might as well have listened to Flick of the Switch if you were seeking out monotony.

Airbourne has their schtick down perfect, no denial there. Too bad they're wasting their energetic talents posing in the mirror instead of branching out into something real. A thousand Beatles clones can't be wrong, but in this case...

Rating: **

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