Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Mercury
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Blues-Rock, Album Rock, Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Boogie Rock
In the 1970s, ZZ Top broke through with a regional sound – simmering Texas blues – and then, in the next decade, reimagined their sound as global beer-joint pop. On their first album in nine years, the trio (along with producer Rick Rubin) place their bets on a sort of masterly skronk: sharp tunes ("Chartreuse," "Consumption") done with deceptively high-tech guitar distortions and rhythmic crunches. The results – from a crackling swampification of "I Gotsta Get Paid," a 1990s hip-hop track by Houston's DJ DMD with Lil' Keke and Fat Pat, to the soaring choruses of "Flyin' High" – prove these guys are still bad, speeding along and with warmth, humor, mystery and funk.
ZZ Top have long been a prime candidate for a Rick Rubin-led comeback, having long ago settled into an insular digital rut that paid back increasingly small dividends. La Futura is that long-awaited ZZ Top record, their first full-length in nearly a decade (the last was 2003's Mescalero) and, more remarkably, their first-ever album to bear a production credit by somebody who is neither Billy Gibbons nor longtime manager Bill Ham, who left the organization in 2006. Gibbons sits at the mixing board with Rubin and together they revive the Top's dirty '70s boogie, never quite forgetting the coolly propulsive stylized rock of Eliminator.
The first ZZ Top album for nine years opens with the most remarkable rock'n'roll song of the year. Gotsta Get Paid is an adaptation not of some old blues or boogie, but of the Houston hip-hop classic 25 Lighters by DJ DMD with Lil' Keke and Fat Pat. It doesn't sound like hip-hop, naturally – it's reconfigured as a dirty, lazy, heavy groove, Billy Gibbons's growling guitar and voice front and centre.
With '70s rock back in vogue, thanks in no small part to Rolling Stone throwing all of its weight behind the Black Keys and that glorified cover band the Sheepdogs, the timing is ideal for one last stand by that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top. La Futura is the hirsute trio's first studio offering since a spate of fine, but mostly overlooked albums a decade ago. Since then, their influence has been strongly heard in everyone from Queens of the Stone Age to any pseudo-country boogie band one cares to name.
Like the Beach Boys' diaphanous "That's Why God Made the Radio" this summer, "I Gotsta Get Paid" – sparking up ZZ Top's 15th album and first since 2003's prickly Mescalero – constitutes an instant indelible for the next essentials collection. La Futura has its crystal ball moments, all right. Produced by überconsultant Rick Rubin and the little ol' Houston trio's hard drive, Billy F.