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“Shoot to Thrill”

Posted by purplemary54 on April 13, 2012

I have what can best be termed as a limited tolerance for hard rock and heavy metal.  I tend to roll my eyes at the tendency towards wizards and dragons and other various fantastic or gothic trappings.  I veer more towards the party hearty variety (which is kind of silly when you think about it, because my idea of a hearty party is a couple of glasses of wine and rousing game of Trivial Pursuit).  I think most guitar “pyrotechnics” are pointless, but good solid, skilled playing never goes out of style.  Now, it must be noted that Led Zeppelin often commits some of these offenses, but they are the exception that proves the rule.  As Kurt Loder once wrote, Led Zeppelin is a genre of one.  They invented the stuff that has essentially been bastardized by bands such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, which pretty much gives them a pass in my book.  Also, Jimmy Page is a god.

But when it comes to sex, drugs, and rock & roll, nobody can beat AC/DC.  They get more than a little silly sometimes, what with all the phallic imagery, but it’s hard to deny the pure density and power of their music.  It is really hard rock.  Angus Young’s guitar is technically simple, but the chords and solos are like granite.  The bass and drums give everything a foundation as solid as the Earth itself.  And the vocals–whether it’s Brian Johnson or the late Bon Scott–rattle around like gravel in a coffee can.  And they’re catchy, too, which is not something you say about this sub-genre very often.  The band has a nice sense for hooks and riffs, which translate into good, FM ready rock.

One of the most insanely catchy songs they ever recorded was “Shoot to Thrill.”  There’s really not much deep analysis to do here: It’s about sex and partying.  I find myself a little disturbed by the gun imagery in this song (and many others), but it’s one of the easiest and most recognizable phallic images ever, so I take it with a grain of salt.  The chorus is just flat out great, and Johnson’s vocal performance is one of his best.  He handles the rhythm of the song beautifully, meshing nicely with the drum beat.

I have to put aside a lot of my personal and political beliefs aside when I listen to AC/DC (and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and a whole lot of other rock music).  It can be filled with violent images, which the pacifist in me dislikes.  I have to ignore the objectification of women, even though the feminist in me is screaming.  Because this isn’t music meant for thinking or discussion.  This is music meant to blare at eardrum-shattering levels from speakers the size of grown men.  Should I be offended by it?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   I’ve always felt I should be more offended by the music industry for perpetuating the institutional acceptance of misogyny and violence.  Although I wonder sometimes if AC/DC’s refusal to outgrow these attitudes is about any genuine affiliation or just savvy marketing.  Their main audience, after all, isn’t educated women; it’s teenage boys, who eat this stuff up like candy.  Rock music is, has been, and always will be about youth and its desires, as exemplified by Angus Young’s perpetual naughty schoolboy costume.  Sex, drugs, and rock & roll.  The day I see Angus Young on stage in long pants is the day that AC/DC grows up.  It’s also probably the day they give up rocking.

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