It’s a welcome return with this being the first ZZ Top album in nearly a decade. Road-tight, weathered, battered, gnarled and gnarly this band rages on with Billy Gibbons sounding like the voice of boogie-blues; a glorious croak that feels hundreds of years old and yet on the superb opener, I Gotsta Get Paid – which sets the tone, really – Gibbons reminds why so many blues-referencing retro-rock acts end up running out of steam. Piss-weak vocals can’t carry a band and here it’s the voice of experience, a fearsome growl. But it’s real – this is no phoney/character voice, this is the 200+nights-a-year, 40+ years voice of Texas blues-rock.
ZZ Top has always had the knack of rewriting their finest songs – their finest in fact (already) being rewrites in a sense anyway. And so here Chartreuse traces around the found-sound of Tush, a palinode, postcard sent back in time.
And, hey, if you never liked ZZ Top there’s possibly no point in trying now but this is a reminder of the band’s superb 70s offerings. It’s not a five-star classic, it might not even be a four-star album (but it’s close enough). What it is though, as with new albums by Leonard Cohen and also Van Halen and probably Steve Vai, is a ZZ Top album in 2012 that is so much better than any ZZ Top album in 2012 might have been. Just as Van Halen, Cohen and Vai bettered any expectations for this day and age.
It’s also (some) proof that Rick Rubin’s guiding hand still cuts through, still means something – beyond profile/hype. For this is the best ZZ Top has sounded in, nearly three decades.
And there are plenty of great songs here – more in one hit than the band has had since Eliminator, easily.
If nothing else La Futura gives another reason to see the eternally-touring beast that is ZZ Top. The new songs will just slot right in. And Billy’s guitar playing is fine. As always.