Review Summary: This could be the album that will finally put ZZ Top back on track for good.
The last few albums ZZ Top released were all going back to the old sound but with a dirtier, fuzzed make over. There were always some good tracks and some ordinary ZZ Top numbers which if more focused, could've been better. However, since the band's been using the same formula and same producer from album one, they never pushed further or focused to make an entire album worthy of comparing to their peak efforts. On 'Mescalero the dirty sound and the rough blues vocals are there, and they still got the groove and the heart to do an instantly memorable record. So what's wrong this time ?
'Mescalero' is clearly their best album from the RCA years, but this time they forget the editing and throw a bloated, 17-track album (including the hidden cover "As Time Goes By"), that has everything you would expect from the band; from the dirty rockers "Mescalero" and "Liquor" to the full blown fuzz-drenched "Two Ways To Play", but also blues numbers "Goin' So Good", "As Time Goes By", the "What It Is Kid?" boogie or the lite "What Would You Do?". There are also some trademark fun tracks like "Buck Nekkid" and "Que Lastima" (this one being a light blues number with lyrics in Spanish about having beer, good hearts but no women). On "Stackin' Paper", Billy uses more of a falsetto, a first in the career.
On the highlights, "Liquor", "Two Ways To Play". "What Would You Do", Dusty's "Piece" and "Mescalero", the band sounds as if they really are having fun in the studio again. Also, Gibbons' fat tone is more alive than ever and its presence shapes the album really nice. All these make for an interesting, ever changing pace and rhythm.
However, being such a long album and not edited down to 12 tracks or so, there are some missteps, like the rather uninspired instrumental "Crunchy", the too obvious "Alley-Gator" and the uninteresting "Punk Ass Boyfriend", that don't go anywhere. These drag the album down, mostly by cutting down your attention span for some later tracks that are definitely better.
So when they finally step out of the laziness that plagued their lately output and experiment more, they throw all on the table without sitting to cut down the album to a more manageable length and put the less interesting tracks aside. It's annoying to see how close they get and yet they release a sub-par product. Still, the album isn't a disappointment like 'XXX' or as lazy as 'Rhythmeen'.
Even if it's not the long awaited album, it gets as close as it can, mostly because the band sounds like they are having fun again in the studio. For anyone who wants to check out the band's later years' output, start with 'Mescalero'.
Highlights - "Liquor", "Two Ways To Play", "What Would You Do", "Mescalero" and "Piece"