CD Reviews

Back in black. . . at Wal-Mart only.

AC/DCBlack Ice(Columbia)In recent years, I've taken to evaluating, somewhat subconsciously, each new AC/DC album by way of what I'll now outwardly brand the "Send for the Man" scale. It's a fairly straightforward system, resting on one incontrovertible fact: AC/DC—old or new, live or studio, Bon or Brian—is never a bad thing. Fine, you say. But for a band whose every album sounds more or less the same (still you talking, not me), when is it actually a good thing?Enter "Send for the Man," an unremarkable-but-hardly-terrible AC/DC song (workmanlike Angus Young riff, stock Brian Johnson screech, firm mid-tempo rhythm thud) on an unremarkable-but-hardly-terrible AC/DC album (1985's Fly on the Wall). And so its utter ordinariness defines the scale: By rule, a new release on which a majority of the songs are better than "Send for the Man" is, in this band's universe, a good one.Which brings us to Black Ice, AC/DC's first disc in eight years. At 15 songs, it's also the longest they've made, and on the "Send for the Man" scale, it tops out at an impressive 10 over, five under. Rip out much of the record's lazy middle third, and we start approaching For Those About to Rock levels of goodness. Which means that if you're within reasonable driving distance of a Wal-Mart (where this one is on exclusive lockdown), you go get it, stat. RICHARD BIENSTOCK

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