ZZ Top bring back the beards, and Rock & Roll with new album – La Futura
ZZ Top albums tend to have apt titles: Eliminator was a wildly successful 1983 release that effectively left any competition in the dust, Recycler was an uninspired early 90s dud and “ZZ Top’s First Album”… well, that one’s fairly self-explanatory. Now the Texas trio are releasing their first album in nine years, and the title hints at the unthinkable – could the staunchly conservative blues-rock titans be preparing to branch out in a futuristic new direction? Rumours abounded of hip-hop influences creeping in to the band’s sound, and one new track was even given a first play in space – astronaut and long-time fan Mike Fossum blasted out the anthemic Flyin’ High during the Soyuz shuttle launch last year.
As it turns out, perma-bearded devotees needn’t have worried too much – after all, ZZ Top are second only to AC/DC in the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it musical stakes. The grooves and licks that made Tush and Gimme All Your Lovin’ instant classics all those years ago are very much present and correct on Chartreuse and I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose, You respectively, and Heartache In Blue is an infectiously fun, frustrated shakedown with spirited backing vocals from bassist Dusty Hill.
Billy Gibbons’ raunchy guitar work and whisky-soaked voice have launched a thousand copycats (“Load”-era James Hetfield, Mark Lanegan, most HBO soundtracks), and here he fully embraces his cartoonish, Southern badass persona with relish. La Futura reveals itself over repeat listens to be the bands’ Time Out Of Mind or Bad As Me – an unexpectedly relevant, devil-may-care release by an artist previously thought to be long past their best, and summing up everything that made them special in the first place.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few surprises along the way. First single I Gotsta Get Paid started life as a deep hip-hop cut by fellow Texans Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat, and is transformed here into a great, grizzly roadhouse chug by uber-producer Rick Rubin – cast your mind back to his maximalist work on Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. Meanwhile, Over You and It’s Too Easy Mañana offer refreshing changes of pace, the former an uncharacteristically vulnerable ballad highlighting Gibbons’ ravaged pipes to perfection. But for the most part, it’s business as usual for the Houston veterans – no Autotune or wobble bass here, just a vibrant, virile masterclass that’s all over in under forty minutes.
Standout track: Over You
Listen to ZZ Top – Over You here: