By Daniel Watts
Music Reviewer and Segment Producer
AC/DC are no strangers to controversy. Stretching as far back to the early days as a band in Australia stirring the pot with their rowdy style Rock and Roll. Suffering the loss of their legendary lead singer, Bon Scott and then choosing to move forward with Brian Johnson. Let’s not forget all the sad and bizarre controversy surrounding the release of the band’s newest album Rock or Bust. Longtime drummer Phil Rudd becoming involved with the law and founding member and rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young retiring due to struggling with dementia.
In 1985 AC/DC released their 10th international studio effort with Fly on the Wall. The album was produced by Angus and Malcolm Young and published on the Atlantic Records label. It features Brian Johnson on vocals, Angus and Malcolm Young on guitar, Cliff Williams on bass and Simon Wright on drums.
1985 saw AC/DC struggle to stay in the spotlight following their major success with 1980’s Back in Black. Additionally, the band was still operating without their original drummer, Phil Rudd. They also seemed to be gravitating more towards Heavy Metal rather than sticking to their signature Blues driven Rock and Roll. They had started to transition on their previous album Flick of the Switch which wasn’t considered much of an achievement by the mainstream listening audience. Following that, AC/DC chose to push even harder in that direction with Fly on the Wall. These changes caused much of the mainstream listening audience to write AC/DC off as a has-been band.
Much like 83’s Flick of the Switch, Fly on the Wall failed to grab the mainstream public's attention. Music critics labeled the album as "confused" and accused it of being mostly filler. Despite the album stumbling in the public’s eye it did manage to peak at spot 32 on The Billboard 200. Additionally, the band still managed to receive just enough attention to sell out shows across the globe. In the eye of controversy, AC/DC carried on.
I think Fly on the Wall showcases a unique side of AC/DC that was only experienced for a few short years. This is AC/DC going full-throttle down the Heavy Metal highway. The age old Rock philosophy works well in this situation. The heavier and louder, the better. That’s Fly on the Wall exactly. I am addicted to the Young brother’s in-your-face riffs and the brawling backbone provided by Cliff Williams and Simon Wright. When it comes to Brian Johnson’s vocals though, they sound a little too deep in the mix making it a slight challenge to hear him clearly at times but they’re not so buried that it makes the album hard to listen to.
I think AC/DC once again flexed their consistent muscle with Fly on the Wall. The album sounds solid from top to bottom. I believe the production, despite Johnson’s vocals, sounds fair. The album consists of ten well executed tracks but my favorites are “Sink the Pink” and “Playing with Girls”. Those two are exciting, high energy and rebellious - all the elements needed to make a great AC/DC song.