Let’s be honest now. When was the last time anyone heard anything relevant from The Little Ole Band from Texas? For me, it must have been some 30 years ago. Fact is, for me it was El Loco from 1981. I’m one of those guys who gets a big smile on my face just to read the titles of albums such as Tres Hombres, Fandango, Tejas and Degüello. Their brand of hard rocking blues and boogie can liven up the most boring party and if you can stand still to songs like “Party On The Patio”, “Just Got Paid”, “Tush”, “Heard It On The X” or “Tube Snake Boogie”, then there is something terribly wrong with you. Speaking of wrong, that’s what it started to get when they released their 1983 smash hit album Eliminator. Sure, it is their best selling album with sales of 10 million albums due to hits like “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man”, but their dirty boogie rock had been replaced by a slick production, synthesizers and drum machines and even though I can understand the need for a band that has been going for some 10 years to experiment a bit, in my ears, pop songs wasn’t the way to go. The follow up Afterburner (1985) wasn’t the same mega success, selling “only” an amount of 5 million copies and on here the use of machines got even worse, it also spawned a lifeless and boring ballad in “Rough Boy”.
They tried to get back to basics with their 1990 release Recycler, with the use of less synthesizers, but damage was already done and the album wasn’t at all as groovy and alive the way ZZ Top used to be. Since then, the band has got rid of all machines and tried to concentrate on what they do best, groovy rock ‘n’ roll boogie. But they never reached the heights of their glory days and the albums felt somewhat dull. So when the news of a new ZZ Top album reached me, excited isn’t exactly the word I’m looking for to describe my feelings towards that. But the word got out that ZZ Top this time had something really cool going on, so why not giving the album a shot and see how it worked out? Well, after one listen it stood clear that this album is the best record they have made in ages and ages and it surprised the hell out of me. First of all, the band sounds alive, fresh and fired up. The grooves and the twinkle in their eyes and their raw, but refined humor seems to be back. Refreshing, to say the least.
First single “I Gotsa Get Paid” is a real ZZ Top stomper with a modern twist, originally a soundtrack to the movie Battleship and song itself is an interpretation of a song called “25 Lighters” by Texan Hip Hop DJ DMD, but the Zee Zee guys has made it work extremely well. “Consumption” to me is what ZZ Top is all about, “Over You” is a raw blues ballad and I love it, “Heartache In Blue” is a great blues number and “I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose You” sounds like the Eliminator stuff minus the machines – just great! In “Fly High” they visit Rolling Stones territory,”It’s Too Early Manana” is a slow blues rocker that sounds a bit like “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger and “Big Shiny Nine” is a slow and heavy blues rocker – you just gotta love it. In my book, this is exactly how I think ZZ Top should sound in 2012. Back to their roots without repeating themselves. Rick Rubin’s production is raw and hard but not without nuances and Billy Gibbons has a new rawness to his voice that gives everything a dirtier feel. My guess is that this album will please all of you beerdrinkers and hellraisers out there.
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
01. I Gotsta Get Paid
04. Over You
05. Heartache in Blue
06. I Don t Wanna Lose, Lose, You
07. Flyin High
08. It s Too Easy Manana
09. Big Shiny Nine
10. Have a Little Mercy