After several days of online hints and teasers, Australian high-volume rockers AC/DC have confirmed their return to active duty by announcing that veteran singer Brian Johnson, drummer Phil Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams have rejoined the band after several years’ absence.
A new photo of the band finds them looking older but energized, with lead guitarist Angus Young, now 65, still rocking the schoolboy outfit.
The term “Pwr Up” featured in several of the teasers is apparently the title of a new album, although the official announcement does not say when it might be coming. Twisted Sister Singer Dee Snider, a longtime friend of the band, said over the summer that the group has completed a new album.
Such a return seemed unlikely a few years ago. Guitarist Malcolm Young, the group’s leader and Angus’ brother, died in 2017 after years of dementia that had seen him replaced by nephew Stevie Young, who fills out the current lineup.
On the group’s last tour in 2016, Johnson had effectively lost his hearing (unsurprising after decades of his trademark high-pitched shriek) and was replaced for a set of dates by Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose. Rudd was replaced for that tour after he was found guilty of drug possession and violent threats and sentenced to eight months’ home detention.
Formed in 1973, AC/DC’s influence on rock bands since the late 1970s cannot be understated. Their music is rock and roll stripped down to pure muscle and bone, like a supercharged version of Chuck Berry. It sounds simple but isn’t — its melodic directness makes for indelible hooks that are as to-the-point as their titles: “Back in Black.” “Highway to Hell.” “TNT.” “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll),” and their biggest hit, “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
Their songs have been covered by hundreds of artists including Guns N’ Roses — but less obvious is the influence it had on other forms of music. Producer Rick Rubin has said that AC/DC is his all-time favorite band, and he brought their stripped-down approach to both the early hip-hop albums he helmed — LL Cool J’s “Radio” in 1985, Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell” the following year, which included a collaboration with Aerosmith that Rubin orchestrated — but also the rock and pop albums he’d oversee in the ensuing decades by artists from Slayer to Johnny Cash, and especially Tom Petty’s 1994 album, “Wildflowers.”
This year, the group observed the 40 th anniversary of its biggest album, 1980’s “Back in Black.” Driven by the singles “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track, the album has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.