ZZ Top seems to be the little band that could. Just when you think they’ve done all they are going to do musically here they come with La Futura.
They’ve been around a lot longer than many people know. It all didn’t just start in the 1980s with “Sharp Dressed Man.” The band actually formed in 1969 and toured with the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Blues heavy classics “La Grange” and “Tush” made the band stars and ’80s experiments such as the previously mentioned “Sharp Dressed Man” and “TV Dinners” helped the band find even more fans with the still bluesy but modern rock sound. So they’ve been playing music and experimenting with modern influences mixed with their blues base with varying levels of success.
The band began experimenting with sequencers and click tracks that rather than being hidden became a key element in their driving sound. Whatever the band did musically in future albums, these elements stuck around. With this new album, the band’s 15th, they appeared to really want to get back to their roots. The tunes are super fuzzy and very retro blues which matches with guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons‘ even gravelier vocals.
Now that doesn’t mean the band is completely steeping itself in ’70s blues/rock though. The single “I Gotta Get Paid” is a riff on the song “25 Lighters” from Texas hip hop artist DJ DMD and rappers Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat. The song sounds like it’s turned up to 10 and is blaring through a busted speaker and that’s a compliment in the best way. “Flyin’ High” is a bit of an experiment in that it sounds like a ’90s guitar pop song until of course it gets to the guitar solo where Gibbons is on fire with those killer tones and hummable riffs that has made the band iconic. “Consumption” begins with a stock ZZ Top blues riff but heads off in some surprising directions. The song does head full circle though ending neck deep in old school blues. “Big Shiny Nine” is a swaggering ZZ Top classic that features a boogie groove that might just get your hips shakin’.
Everything that made the band great 40 years ago is here in full effect but fresh feeling and that’s quite a feat. It has been nearly 10 years since the last ZZ Top album and it seemed like the band might be done with new music, that they’d just hit the road once in a while to play the classics. That couldn’t be further from the truth though. This album was recorded at a leisurely pace over four years and was produced by Gibbons and super star producer Rick Rubin. Rubin is one of those few producers that can help bands find their way back onto the path they intended to be on but lost their way. Sometimes he can even help them find a new path as he did with Johnny Cash and Metallica.
If you were ever a fan of ZZ Top it’s time to give them another listen. The signature guitar riffs are all here, the humorous tongue-in-cheek lyrics are scattered throughout the album, and that good ol’ ZZ Top tight rhythm is in place here too, minus all of the glitz from the ’80s. There’s really not a bad tune on the album. The worst that can be said is that one or two of the songs might be a little stock ZZ Top but if you’re talking stock from the band at its prime I’d take that any time.