Reviews

AC/DC: Plug Me In [DVD]

Fortunately, AC/DC came during the era of video technology, so even if they don’t hit the road again, they will be remembered, as they should be, on this new two-disc anthology.


AC/DC

Plug Me In

Label: Sony
US Release Date: 2007-10-16
UK Release Date: 2007-10-22
Amazon
iTunes

A day after their July 30, 2003 “Toronto Rocks” performance before roughly half a million people at Downsview Park, AC/DC guitarist Angus Young told me in an interview the group was then working on some new songs for an album that would probably be released the following year. However, fans still wait for that batch of new material and, with that, possibly another tour.

And while people would love to see the group in action again, as they were when they basically blew the Rolling Stones off that same Toronto stage four years ago, Father Time can be a real pain in the ass. With Brian Johnson having just turned 60 and Angus Young now 52, that raspy voice of the former and the knobby knees of the latter aren’t on the upswing. Fortunately, AC/DC came during the era of video technology, so even if they don’t hit the road again, they will be remembered, as they should be, on this new two-disc anthology (three-disc if you want to fork over some more dough).

Plug Me In has some footage which previously appeared on the VHS video (remember VHS?) AC/DC: Let There Be Rock as well as 2004’s Toronto Rocks, but the real gems here are those with the band’s original lead singer Bon Scott. Early television appearances show a group that were years ahead of their time playing to a crowd that had no idea what to make of them. A good example of this is “It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll” with Scott playing the bagpipes while a youthful Angus Young, decked out fully in British school boy attire (down to the brown leather book bag on his back) does his signature foot stomps, two with the left leg, two with the right, repeat for the next 30 years.

The early material’s quality isn’t the best at times, with some video portions a bit grainy but here they seem to hit gold, especially the gorgeous and hellacious cover of Chuck Berry’s “School Days” from a high school gig in 1976. Young has always said Berry was his idol and while the volume is increased substantially, his playing is often very similar to Berry’s hook-saturated numbers. Just as stunning and captivating (and spine-tingling!) is the band’s rowdy, inspiring rendition of Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” as Angus drops his drawers and paces the stage maniacally. However, probably the biggest highlight of the first disc is the band’s performance of “Rocker” and “Let There Be Rock” before a rather tranquil Scottish audience in April 1978. Here Young ends up on the rail of the second balcony while Scott belts out the lyrics.

As powerful as much of the material on Disc One is, the second disc offers up much of the same, albeit with the passing of Scott quickly related in a string of clippings in the bonus “Scrapbook” area. One of Scott’s final concerts with the band is also shown in this section but the quality is a bit poor. However, the band, as is now known rock history, lost nothing musically when Brian Johnson took over the vocals. While there are more songs on Disc Two, a few of the selections are from albums that didn’t quite measure up to the likes of Black In Black, Highway To Hell and For Those About To Rock We Salute You. This is especially true of concert footage from 1983 when the band opts for “Bedlam In Belgium” and “Flick Of The Switch”. Equally average and at times a bit listless is the group’s 1996 tour footage in support of Ballbreaker taken from an Australian show. “Hail Caesar” might be a favorite to some, but it’s forgettable for most.

That isn’t to say that as the anthology moves closer to 2000 and beyond the band’s live show gets worse. In fact the homestretch contains a great “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” that has Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson basically sweating their equivalent body weight. But of all the songs which seem to show that the transition from Scott to Johnson was as seamless as any in rock history is Johnson and company doing “Ride On”, a slow and finely tuned blues-rock track that shines before a sold-out Paris crowd despite Johnson seemingly looking a bit too often at what is probably a teleprompt. And while this particular disc has more bonus footage, the real keeper is Angus and Malcolm Young sharing the stage with The Rolling Stones during “Rock Me Baby”. Richards and Young try to one-up the other with Richards not knowing what to make of this rather little man with the big guitar.

In terms of packaging and presentation, Plug Me In uses a “Space Invaders” theme and motif for its menu. There are multiple options here, which allow the viewer to see songs at random or have them play in order. The scrapbook is also a nice collection of pieces even if they are shown during two songs. Overall, AC/DC have given fans what they want here, nothing that reeks of KISS-ology and its musical minutia but a nice capsule of a band that is one of the best rock and roll bands to walk the planet.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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