PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Airbourne: Runnin' Wild

There's always room for a fun AC/DC rip-off, especially when it's this good.


Airbourne

Runnin' Wild

Label: Roadrunner
US Release Date: 2008-01-29
UK Release Date: 2008-01-28
Amazon
iTunes

Whenever hard rock is stuck in a rut, we inevitably hear from a bunch of maverick bands bent on reminding everyone just how fun no-frills, guitar-based rock 'n' roll can be, with a dose of disposable tunes that serve as a respite from the tired sounds passing off as modern rock. Two decades ago, while we were choking on the Aqua Net fumes of bands like Warrant, Poison, Slaughter, Trixter, et al, and Guns N' Roses, LA Guns, and Faster Pussycat played up the LA sleaze image, a small subculture started to spring up within pop metal, as other acts emphasized the blue-collar riff-rock of the late-1970s. While the Cult's calculated transformation from goth/psychedelic to brazen Zeppelin worship and hard-working rockers Kix scored big, it was the overlooked bands that offered some of the best tunes. Whether it was Dangerous Toys' "Teas'n Pleas'n", Dirty Looks' "Oh Ruby", or the Four Horsemen's "Rockin' is Ma Business", as trite as it all was, for a brief moment it was a refreshing, arrogant middle finger aimed straight at the made-up faces of the hair bands.

These days, the state of hard rock couldn't be any sorrier, as the dour, post-post-post grunge of Nickelback, Hinder, and Daughtry continue their inexplicable longevity and late-'90s bores Puddle of Mudd and Seether currently dominate the modern rock charts. While Australia hasn't been exactly the greatest exporter of cutting edge music in recent years (the Vines, Jet, Wolfmother, and I Killed the Prom Queen isn't exactly the most impressive roster), the country did produce some phenomenal, riff-oriented 1970s bands in AC/DC, Buffalo, Angel City, and Rose Tattoo. Warrnambool natives Airbourne shamelessly cop the style of all those bands on their heavily-hyped second album, bringing upbeat, barroom rock back to North American audiences.

Not a lick of this band is original, but when it comes to traditional hard rock, it's all in how you sell it, and Airbourne takes the ball and runs like mad, churning out the Angus Young riffs, the Bon Scott/Brian Johnson-style screaming, the rave-up paeans to rock and the process of rocking, and of course, loads and loads of blunt, borderline comical sexual innuendo, and doing so with charisma. All they ask of us is to simply buy into it as much as they do.

And how can anyone possibly resist something like "Stand Up for Rock 'n' Roll"? Opening with an oddly flamboyant overture of cymbal crashes and arpeggiated notes, the band gradually starts to pick up the pace, eventually exploding into a scorching, slashing riff straight out of Let There Be Rock, drummer Ryan O'Keeffe and bassist Justin Street propelling the track at a raucous pace. Vocalist/lead guitarist Joel O'Keefe is in full Bon Scott mode from the get-go, spouting the gloriously goofy lyrics ("Drink your beer / Drink your wine / Let's have a goodtime") like it's gospel.

After that raucous opener, the rest of Runnin' Wild settles into cruise control, the band tossing the kind of slight variations on the sound that those who grew up on 1980s hard rock and pop metal will be able to easily pinpoint. "Runnin' Wild" carries itself with the mid-'80s swagger of American faves Kix. The lumbering "Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast" echoes the boisterous biker rawk of the vastly underrated Four Horsemen and Circus of Power, while the boogie-infused riffery of "What's Eating You" comes closest to emulating the sound of late-'80s sleaze.

Still, this album is at its best when the band is in full AC/DC mode. The second half of the disc is especially good, as the pace picks up, song after song blowing by in a blur of thrumming, one-note basslines, pub-style gang choruses, and of course, riff after riff. "Blackjack" has fun with the goofy cards-as-sex-metaphor shtick that "The Jack" did 30 years ago. The lecherous "Girls in Black" and the mid-tempo stomp of "Cheap Wine & Cheaper Women" are pretty self-descriptive. "Heartbreaker" just might be the best Angus & Bon homage on the entire record.

At barely more than half an hour Runnin' Wild is savvy enough to not overplay its hand. It's not going to turn the rock world upside down, will likely be forgotten in a few years, and will easily be outsold by the next release by Chad Kroeger and company. But with more adrenaline and testosterone than any of the dour dood rock power ballads out there right now, not to mention hooks up the wazoo, at least for one fleeting moment we are reminded of just how invigorating simple, three-chord hard rock can be.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.