ZZ Top – “La Futura” (2012)

September 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

The brand new, long-awaited, Rick Rubin-produced album by ZZ Top. This review comes from the Something Else! website. Written by Nick DeRiso, Aug. 9th…

Remember how ZZ Top — a lip-smacking amalgam of blues, hard rock and Texas-born don’t-give-a-damn — sounded before they cloaked themselves in an MTV-approved sheen of synthesizers? It’s like that again.

From the white-trash groove of “Heartache in Blue” to pedal-mashing boogie of “Lose Lose You,” from the slow-motion heavy-metal menace of “It’s Too Easy” to the riff and roar of “Big Shiny Nine,” ZZ Top’s forthcoming La Futura has the feel of vintage stuff, made new.

The forthcoming, long-awaited Rick Rubin-helmed project, due September 11, 2012 from American Recordings, is a nearly complete return to form for Billy Gibbons and Co. — the kind of record that sounds like a barroom brawl between a grease-popping guitar, an ass-whipping bass and a skull-splitting drum kit.

It’s hard, at times, to believe all of the glorious racket on La Futura is coming from only three dudes. That too, of course, is just like old times.

How better to begin than with the album’s gloriously debauched lead single “I Gotsta Get Paid,” with its rooster tail guitar signature and sour mash-swilling vocal? This track could have come from no other band — right down to Gibbons’ stuttering flourish just before his solo, something that draws a straight line back to the slinky appeal of “Cheap Sunglasses.”

And there is at least one terrific surprise: “Over You,” this raw and moving ballad. As Gibbons’ voice creaks with very real emotion, the track builds toward a shambling, Otis Redding-informed sensuality — easily the most honest moment in memory for this band.

“Gotsta” and “Only You” are among the four La Futura tracks that appeared on an earlier-released four-song EP, along with “Chartreuse” and “Consumption.” The former recalls the days of randy (hell, nasty) little numbers like “Pearl Necklace,” “Legs” and “Tube Snake Boogie” as Gibbons sings in a lip-smacking snarl: “That color just turns me loose … When you get the blues, baby, I got the juice.” (Listen closely at the beginning, and you might hear a whisper of “La Grange” there, too.)

“Consumption,” meanwhile, doesn’t really aspire to anything more than referencing the band’s best gassed-up groovers. Similarly, “Fly High” and “Have a Little Mercy” feel even more by the numbers, like ZZ Top and Rubin took their back-to-basics approach all the way into the safety of nostalgia.

Ultimately, though, there’s no denying the sense that La Futura has reclaimed the band’s core sensibility — a move first hinted at with last year’s release of the volcanic 1980 concert document Live in Germany. With some of the best songs since those glory days, and Rubin’s smartly uncluttered production, ZZ Top has reanimated the unhinged, sleazy atmosphere that once made them such a dangerous delight.

Nick DeRiso



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