Review Summary: ZZ Top are still flyin' high.
ZZ Top's latest album, La Futura
, is the band's first new material in nine years, following the promising yet rather bloated 2003 affair, Mescalero
. At 40 minutes, La Futura
is more concise and recalls the band's early days, but filtered through the dirty, fuzzy sound of their post-Recycler
records. The outcome is really enjoyable, especially for a band that pushes past the 40 year mark. This success is partially due to the fact that these guys have managed to stay almost the same Lil' Ol' Band From Texas
ever since the 70s. Their fan base never wanted them to change and that's for the best of it, because Gibbons & Co. still deliver good dirty blues rock with funny, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
Bringing in Rick Rubin might seem odd and useless since the guys don't need a return to form, because they never really strayed from their musical path (and Rubin has become famous for helping bands go back to their roots and release successful albums). Still, the producer helped ZZ Top by focusing their material into a shorter, more manageable length, because one of the issues that come with staying the same is that if the music isn't catchy or interesting, it can easily lead to redundancy (which at one point was Mescalero
's case). This way, tracks like "Have A Little Mercy" or "I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose You" lack the catchiness of a lot of their music, as the former feels rushed, the lyrics feel borrowed from the band's early rockers and doesn't really say anything. "I Don't Wanna Lose, Lose You" isn't a bad song at all, but it falls in the standard ZZ Top category where it feels as if the band just needed one more song to complete the album and done this one in 30 minutes. After nine years there surely is enough material left from the sessions to replace this one, but in the end it doesn't really drag the album down.
What makes La Futura slightly different from their previous four albums is the melody ZZ Top adds on the record, especially to songs like "It's Too Easy Mañana" and "Flyin' High". They don't mechanically cruise through the tracks, showing there is more than only fat grooves and solos. This way, they're adding a few tweaks to their sound while still doing the same thing music-wise. In the end, however, "I Gotsta Get Paid" and "Chartreuse" still remain the best songs on the record because they offer the most fun. It's really cool seeing ZZ Top covering fellow texans DJ DMD, Lil' Keke & Fat Pat's hip hop song "25 Lighters" and translating it really well in their own world and the latter feels like the band's classic 1975 hit, "Tush", complete with a groovy twist and some great whiskey vocals.
Overall, La Futura
is a great album just because ZZ Top still enjoy making music (the album was unnecessary as they can happily tour their old material until they retire) and feels fresh and alive after 43 years. Hopefully it won't take them another decade to release a new record.