ZZ Top – La Futura (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S been a little too easy to write ZZ Top off as somewhat gimmicky given their distinct look and better known crowd-pleasing standards such as Legs and Sharp Dressed Man. But they remain one of America’s most enduring, yet under-celebrated rock acts.
New album La Futura, their first in nine years, is one of the year’s best rock efforts. Sharp and genuinely rousing in places, it’s also bluesy and heartbroken at others. It’s both steeped in classic rock values yet polished enough to appeal to the here and now, while quite possibly winning Billy Gibbons and company a whole new legion of fans.
You know you’re onto something pretty special from the opening moments of Gotsta Get Paid, a hands down contender for one of the best rock tracks of the year. It doesn’t even matter that it’s a cover version because it sounds so goddam fresh.
A reinterpretation of the hip hop track 25 Lighters by DJ DMD with Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat, it’s a meaty, dirty rocker that features cracking guitar riffs, the gruffest of gruff vocals from Gibbons and a killer chorus that just screams out to be played loud. And once the inevitable guitar solo kicks in, it’s flawless. The boys are back.
A more familiar ZZ Top sound is evident on Chartreuse, which could even be a revitalised Tush, while Consumption’s no-nonsense approach has a leaner, meaner, dirtier vibe that feels like Sharp Dressed Man’s older, more lived in brother.
But then the boys slow down the tempo and underline their mastery of blues. Over You features classic tick-tock percussion values and guitar riff structures as Gibbons laments a lost relationship in broke-down fashion. It’s terrific stuff, yet not so bluesy to cut off the mainstream.
Likewise, and perhaps better, is the gritty, gutsy guitar and harmonica blues of Heartache in Blue, which just soars with cute hooks, a bittersweet chorus and layered vocals. It’s another of the album’s dazzlers and you have to dig the harmonica moments.
It’s more straight-forward rock on I Don’t Wanna Lose, Lose You and one of the more generic offerings. But Flyin’ High combines more classic American rock values with a chorus that’s just so easy to get behind for anyone. It’s a real crowd-pleaser and rolls back the years for the boys.
It’s Too Easy Manana drifts back towards blues territory but combines it with a brilliant vocal performance from Gibbons (lamenting the easiness of feeling good) and some truly seductive guitar work that drips with quality and Big Shiny Nine is a chugging, foot-stomper of a record that drops in trademark ZZ riffs from time to time.
If Have A Little Mercy fails to end the album in as explosive fashion as Gotsta Get Paid starts it, then this is a small price to pay. It’s still good and the album itself is great. It’s fantastic to have the ZZ boys back in such Top form.
Let’s now hope we don’t have to wait another nine years…
Download picks: Gotsta Get Paid, Over You, Heartache in Blue, Flyin’ High, It’s Too Easy Manana