ZZ Top

ZZ Top

Mescalero

RCA Records

“Tush” goes Techno.

This phrase is being bandied about to describe the sound of the latest ZZ Top record (the first since 1999’s XXX), and, unfortunately, it pretty much sums up this tired waste of plastic. Any longtime fan of that “Little ol’ band from Texas” should rightly recoil at this gruesome juxtaposition of musical concepts, and run back to the safety of the trio’s early records which were Class A, Prime Rib slabs of blues plank-splanking, full of tasty guitar, thunderous drumming and a sly, somewhat bizarre sense of humor.

Instead of that, we get ZZ Top circa 2003, pining, one supposes, for the heady days of MTV stardom (the beginning of the end, it must be said, for this once fine band). You remember those days, when “Legs” or “Sharp Dressed Man” seemed to appear every time you switched on the box, and there were Billy, Frank and Dusty along with some outrageously over-inflated women, playing a pale, watered-down version of their best work. How bad is this current record? It makes you want to hear “Legs” again.

Every song sounds almost exactly the same (except for the hidden track, a strange Hawaiian version of “When Time Goes By.” OK, whatever…): full of a mushy, overfuzzed guitar sound and treated vocals. Billy Gibbons, who has been revered for decades for the tones he coaxes from his ’59 Les Paul “Pearly Gates,” has shucked all that for a sound that can best be simulated (and appreciated, one suspects) by a Saturday afternoon crowd at Guitar Center, full of 12 year old kids banging away on Pac Rim guitars with fuzzboxes, all trying to play “Enter Sandman.” Everything on this record is distorted — guitar, bass, drums and even the vocals, which, considering how banal most of the lyrics are, is a small comfort. ZZ Top has never been a band that you looked to for deep, philosophical ruminations on life (although “Lord take me downtown, I’m just lookin’ for some tush” has a certain Zen-like directness), but Mescalero boasts lyrics so stupid that even the lowest IQ’d Top fan is gonna be insulted. And, in the case of “Punk Ass Boyfriend,” mighty confused about their heroes “orientation,” since the song never really resolves the issue of just who has this “Punk Ass Boyfriend” — an unnamed third party, or the singer? Oh, let’s not go any further down that road.

Seems strange to spend 400+ words slamming a record that most people will ignore without a glance, but hell, this band has been responsible for some of the most righteous boogie ever unleashed. Now, they just righteously suck. Dude.

ZZ Top: http://www.zztop.com

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