Rock’n’Roll Damnation crashes in as a statement of intent “They say that you play too loud, well baby that’s tough!”and straight into a classic ‘DC riff. Hand claps, gang vocals and Bon straight talking and reflective on the rock and roll way of life; what more could you want?
A pulsing bassline, a pounding beat and strutting guitar line announce the arrival of Gimme A Bullet. The story of a man kicked to the curb by his girlfriend and looking for another woman, any woman to fill the hole left and numb the pain just for the night. Bon knows he’ll be OK in the long run “Come tomorrow, come to grips, with me all alone.” But right now, tonight, he needs a bullet to bite on to stop the ache, just so he can “make believe” that he hasn’t lost her.
You only have to hear the delivery on the next tune to know that truth is being spoken. Down Payment Blues is heralded by chiming, gruff guitars subtly joined by a driving rhythm section building to a galloping charge of an intro that drops down a notch to allow Bon room to meditate on the ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ . Couple this with a great solo from Angus and you have a bona fide classic.
For me Gone Shootin’ is the center of this album and the Bon eras finest five and a bit minutes. It boasts an effortless groove, an almost funky interlocking riff topped off with that fabulous bluesy lick from the Young’s and Mr Scott’s greatest lyric. Here Bon tells us the story of another love lost, this time to drugs, “She backed her favourite nag, but she could never win”. This is the song that made me realise that Bon was not just a 'cut out' rock and roller. When you add in that solo and just before that superb coda the “ I used to love her so…” it is just a perfect beautiful heartbreaker rock and roll song.
Riff Raff, what can you say? Killer, killer riff, astonishing opener for a live gig, witness the Glasgow ’78 footage. Rebel lyrics from Bon this time, but it is all about the other boys. It’s just a lethal track.
Another tune, another classic, Sin City, a story–esque lyric from Bon about looking for that one chance to make it big. Mal’s superb slashing rhythmic chords power this monster along, Phil’s sounds like he’s smashing glass with his crashes, and Ang produces a solo that takes you right to the edge before that dark breakdown in the middle of the song before Bon ramps up the atmosphere for the final charge and Ang loses it totally. Even if Bon hasn’t got a “hope in hell” he’s still going in even if he is destined to be another loser. Awesome live witness Midnight Special.
What’s Next To The Moon adds yet more variety to the mix. A rolling riff and a tribal beat from Phil produce another dark edged track. Bon’s lyrics only add to the air of mystery. Worked incredibly well live, where the chorus was absolutely thunderous.
Surely time for a breather but not a chance, Up To My Neck In You. It’s a juggernaut of a song, a total destroyer of a track, all slashing chords and relentless beats, while Bon weaves his magic again, managing to sound regretful, grateful and filthy at the same time. This song also has a claim to feature Ang’s greatest solo, furious and tuneful. Naturally it is a beast live.
Cold Hearted Man is a true ‘story song’. Again full of darkness, aided by the space created by the boys and Bon’s delivery. Loss hangs heavy on this track again, as Bon explains how an orphan child “Called her Ma, called him Pa, but he was born to someone else”, grows through experience and heartbreak ,“one time lover, heart in his hand” to be a cold hearted man “you can’t trust nothing you don’t understand”. Bon acknowledges the other side of the hard man image, and how it can it form, in the breakdown before the final chorus. It is a magnificent song.
To end the album? As close to a straight ahead rocker as can be seen on this album. A faster tempo, with guitars that crash in waves while Phil powers the tune like a machine. Bon vents his spleen on a women that ‘done him wrong’, and in the final verse on all womenkind. Hard edged rock and roll, full stop. No other band, no other frontman could deliver with such authority.
Why is Powerage this band’s greatest achievement? Because it goes beyond being just a hard rocking album, it adds loss, longing and heartbreak to the mix, in short it is their most human, most honest album. Bon opens up on this album and lets reality and us in, giving this album a depth that none of their other releases even approach. This is Bon’s record and it is a thing of fierce, raw and bleeding beauty.