ZZ top

Frank Beard and the Beards
*special introductory paragraph!
*Salt Lick 7"
*ZZ Top's First Album
*Rio Grande Mud
*Tres Hombres
*El Loco
*Live From Texas

ZZ Top. The Meat Puppets loved 'em enough to dedicate their entire Huevos album to them. Motorhead loved 'em enough to cover "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" and plagiarize "Tush". AC/DC loved 'em enough to rip off "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and possibly "Master Of Sparks". The Melvins loved 'em enough to cover "Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings" and quote from Fandango! on their live album. Steve Albini loves 'em enough to have covered "Just Got Paid" with Rapeman and to (to this day) declare in interviews how much he would enjoy the chance to work with them. Former Cows Kevin Rutmanis and Freddie Votel both consider Mescalero to be one of the most entertaining releases of 2003. So don't be so quick to write them off as old person Southern blues-rock, if that's what you were doing. Truth of the matter is that these adorable bearded men have churned out more classic seething guitar riffs over the years than your mother has churned out babies that are worth a shit - "Manic Mechanic"? "Heard It On The X"? "Tube Snake Boogie"? Oh, don't get me STARTED on the "Tube Snake Boogie"!

Historywise, ZZ Top was founded in 1969 Texas by Billy Gibbons of The Moving "99th Floor" Sidewalks and Messrs. Frank Beard and Dusty Hill from a band called American Blues. The "Top" (SHORT FOR "ZZ TOP") began as a pretty straightforward electric blues-rock band with a Texas southern feel, then spent the '70s adding additional elements and influences (soul, heavy metal, gospel, pop, country, new wave) to their sound before refueling everything with 1983's massive hit electronic-blues breakthrough Eliminator. After that, they held on to their winning formula for a few more unnecessary years before finally not having any more hits at all while continuing to release CDs that you've never heard of. Oh - and fans of childish sexual innuendo, you'll be ALL OVER this band. "Woke Up With Wood" indeed!

Salt Lick 7" - Scat 1969
Rating = 8

When Billy Gibbons, Lanier Grieg and Dan Mitchell sat down in 1969 to record the debut ZZ Top single, little did they know that they would soon become one of the most successful and beloved rock bands of all time! (without Lanier Grieg or Dan Mitchell)

Fresh off the backbone of his Jimi Hendrix ripoff band "The Moving Sidewalks," Mr. Gibbons said to himself, "You know what? Let's play some catchy soul/r'n'b things with an organ." They did so and Shnazalamma! These songs are GOOD! Certainly they sound like nothing else in the ZZ Top catalog, but if you've heard Rhythmeen, Antenna or XXX, I think you'll agree that that's not necessarily a bad thing. The b-side in particular ("Miller's Farm") has a fantastic little riff that Booker T. And The MG's would literally kill for! (and literally did, hence the replacement of corpses Greig and Mitchell with Frank Beard And Dusty Hill of fellow Texas band "American Blues").

Reader Comments

One album review: generic

One sentence review: Aren't these inferior versions we have heard by dozens of other artists?

Numeric Review: 5/10

Note to ZZ Top: Get off your butt and release a studio album. Look you have released a total of 5 albums in the past 24 years and 4 of them totally sucked. At least, Mescalero was awesome which gave me hope.

Add your thoughts?

ZZ Top's First Album - Warner Bros. 1970
Rating = 7

Boogie blues-rock. Lots of guitar solos. Two singers - one with a clean Southern drawl, the other all gruff and weird like his mouth is filled with a beard. The melodies themselves likely won't bowl you down the lane of love, but the best songs are as mesmeric as a hypnotist with their mean Texas groove and incredible repetitiveness.

The set up is Billy Gibbons on weird voice and guitars (often SLIDE - he loves his slide guitar!), Dusty Hill on clean voice and bass, and Frank Beard on traps (drums) traps. The guitars are hard-rock distorted with a raw, dirty feel (and, strangely, the occasional light chorusy sheen on top). It doesn't sound like a thousand years of songwriting went into most of these riffs, and don't be surprised if you find yourself going, "Jesus, do any of these songs' verses have more than one chord?" But when you're forming a blues-rock band, I guess that's where you start -- with a 12-bar blues format, basic dirty boogie woogie rhythm lines, and guitar solos out the flapjack butt.

Most of the lyrics stick to normal bluesy concerns too - particularly marital infidelity, which is pleased to find itself discussed at length in four of the ten songs. Other songwriting topics include murder, aging, depression (or "the blues," as it was called prior to the heartfelt rise of Psychiatry) and balling black broads (in "Brown Sugar," recorded a full year prior to The Rolling Stones' historic discovery that black women have vaginas). However, the most surprising turn of events for this particular band is the fun and greasy "Bedroom Thang," which has our narrator turning down sex with a teenager because what he really wants is a life partner. Possibly one of the married women he's screwing in all the other songs.

But let me stress -- the music isn't GENERIC, per se. It's just very basic for a band that later wouldn't be so basic. They still include plenty of colorful little touches to separate them from the bar bands of the world - the quirky pedal steel lead in "Shaking Your Tree," the subtle guitar twiddly-diddlies in "Certified Blues," the happy buzzy tone and bright orange pop coda of "Backdoor Love Affair," for example. But you can keep the Robert Cray lounge jazz of "Just Got Back From Baby's," and do my balls smell or is "Old Man" the blueprint for every slow song Lynyrd Skynyrd ever recorded?

BTW, it's considered of expert taste to begin a rhetorical question with the phrase "Do my balls smell or - ." Many American universities base entire courses around this creative and inspirational writing tool.

In finality, First Album may not be ZZ Top's most scintillating release, but never let it be said that it's not very much their first.

Reader Comments

A word of warning to the unaware about early ZZ Top:

In the early 80's, when the band hit paydirt with "Elimintator", some bright spark came up with the idea of remixing its first six albums to bring them "up to date" (i.e. to make them all sound just like "Eliminator"). The sound on the remixes is...well, very 80's: the drums sound like they were recorded in an airport hangar; the guitars sound somehow weaker - less "bity". These remixed versions appear to be the more readily available ones on CD these days (although I believe that at least a couple of them are about to be rereleased, hopefully in original form (with bonus tracks)). Indeed, I've been having hassles trying to get the original mixes on CD. You may prefer the newer ones (I don't). Just wanted to give you all a warning. If you believe that music should sound today as it was made in back in the day, then you'll want to know.


In response to 'brettreece':

While the new versions of these ZZ Top albums don't sound terribly appealing, I can think of at least one case where a remaster/remix of an album was MUCH better than its original version: The Stooges' "Raw Power".

Hey, ZZ Top! What a pleasant surprise to see this new page on your site. ZZ Top were one of my favorite early-teen year bands (early 80s), but I haven't listened to them regularly in years... so it's nice to revisit and revalue these old crusty classics.

Regarding the comment above, I believe he's referring to the abominable "ZZ Top Six Pack" 3-disc set that was released at the height of their popularity. I never bought it, but I remember having to endure the new "remixed" version of "La Grange" on the radio for the longest time - with that shittyass gated drum sound! Ruined a perfectly good song! Since their catalog has been re-released since then, I assumed (optimistically) that they went back to the original mix. I sure hope so - I've been meaning to upgrade my moldy vinyl copy of "Tres Hombres" for a while now.

ZZ Top's First Album never really impressed me much. I love "Shakin' Your Tree", and I think "Brown Sugar" (I'd never considered your conspiracy theory about that song's relation to the Stones song - interesting!) and "Bedroom Thang" are worth a few listens, but the rest bored me when I was a teen. The mix and the energy level just seem a bit anemic to my ears. I'll give it a 6/10.

Add your thoughts?

Rio Grande Mud - Warner Bros. 1972
Rating = 7

Don't throw a shitfit but this album has three men in a puddle of mud on the cover. This is just speculation, but could this have been the inspiration behind the creation and formation of rock and roll defecation Puddle Of Mudd, worst pile of menstruation on any station in this fine nation? (Not to mention globalization?) If so, here - let me lower its grade to a 2.

On a related note, this album begins by tricking you into thinking it's a really bigtime progression from the first album, handing out the total pop rock action of "Francine" and wicked cool evil hard rocker "Just Got Paid," but after these two lead-off Knockahomas, you're right back to the standard choogly rhythm guitars, slide leads and 12-bar electric blues-rock arrangements of the First Album. Don't throw your coat down in disgust though, even if it's over a puddle of mud so a woman can walk over it without getting her feet wet. What is it with puddles of mud? They've infiltrated this review to an unheard-of extent! Fuck you, mud puddles! Fuck you and the rain you came in on!

The real reason you shouldn't throw your coat down in disgust is because ZZ Top is a good blues-rock band. Granted, this is a LOW 7, as I don't think this record is quite as consistent as the first one. However, even if "Mushmouth Shoutin'" defines the word 'plodding' and "Apologies To Pearly" is the exact opposite of an antonym for the word 'slide guitar dickery over a 12-bar instrumental,' some of these hooks are going to rip the pleasure centers right out of your head and throw them across the street. You may have to wait a while to get to the record's longest winning streak of material (tracks 7-9), but when you finally arrive at the speedy as nails boogie woogie "Bar-B-Q," the angry as dirt drum-pusher "Whiskey'n Mama," and ESPECIALLY the absolutely gorgeous pain ballad "Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fall," don't blame me if your dick jumps six feet in the air and gets caught in the chandelier! Unless you're a woman, in which case that's totally my fault what with the voodoo doll and miniature prosthesis.

You know what's hilarious? In 1970, ZZ Top released a song called "Brown Sugar." In 1971, the Rolling Stones released a hit single called "Brown Sugar." So can we assume that this is why 1972 found ZZ Top releasing "Francine," a song whose "WHOOOO!" coda is an obvious tribute/reference/homage to the Rolling Stones' hit single of the previous year? If not, where? And who are these two non-ZZ Top members that co-wrote the song with Billy? I need to know!

The guitar tones are the same as on the first album, and I don't really notice any huge difference songwriting-wise aside from the first two songs. So if you like that one, you're bound to enjoy Rio Grande Mud as well. One difference I should point out though is the lyrics. Unlike the blues concerns of the first record, this one is a rock opera about a young British lad climbing a secret magical vine to a rainbow city of stars and spiritual unity.

JANUARY FOOL'S! Actually the lyrics involve such new-fangled modernday concerns as infidelity, "Doin' It" (sex), lost love, cars, money, "Eatin' It" (oral sex), and... hmm, well "Francine" appears to be about one of the bearded billy goat band members' intense love for 13-year-old girl. I guess it could be about a dog or something; look, I'd really rather not spend too much time ruminating on this one so if you know the answer, "Add your thoughts?"!

In conclusion, I simply must share with you the full lyrics of "Bar-B-Q," in which the narrator takes a full THREE VERSES to ask a single question. And it's not even that GOOD a question! Here:

"Now baby, tell me why don't you?
Well, now, baby, tell me why don't you?
Aw, baby, tell me why don't you?

No, baby, now want to make me some?
Oh, now, baby, now want to make me some?
Aw, baby, now want to make me some?

No, baby, tell me why don't you?
Oh, now, baby, tell me why don't you
aw, make me some of your fine famous Bar-B-Q?"

Reader Comments

Better than the first album. "Just Got Paid" is one of my favorite songs of theirs, and "Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell" is rich, full, beautiful, and depressing. Still a bit of muddy cruddy on Side A, but overall the mix is more lively and the songs more interesting. And yeah, "Francene" sounds a hell of a lot like the Stones' "Brown Sugar" - same chord sequence and "Whooo"s in the outro! 7/10

Hi. I just saw your ZZTOP web site and it caused me to remember the first time I saw them. It was in New Orleans in the early 70's at "A Warehouse," on Tchoupitoulas, in no man's land in New Orleans. they were opening for Wishbone Ash. I had never heard of them, but some friends told me they had seen them at some joint we used to go to on the outskirts of town to see Blackmoore, a very good local cover band.

ZZ played Brown Sugar and Francine, a lot of blues, slide, then Billy announced he was going to try out his new "box" guitar (Everybody thought he was talking about an acoustic, but he brought out a box-shaped Bo Didley style electric) and they also played a thing where Billy and Dusty sang what sounded like a sex coaching song for guys: "you better mellow down, mellow down, mellow down, mellow down before you blow your top...)

Francine was a hit soon after, and it is still one of my faves, along with "just Got Paid," which I heard recently at a Joe Bonnamassa concert. He did a good job.

Long Live ZZ!

I actually never heard any ZZ Top in my life until last year and coulda sworn "Just Got Paid" was a Rapeman song (i actually probably always knew it was a cover, but never bothered to find out who it was by originally).... anyway, it's now the first ZZ Top i've heard. If you want the big hits get Eliminator, but this is good early stuff. Probably my favorite Southern Rock from this period (never got into Skynyrd, Allman Bros etc. though). Here's a fun game - take Metallica's Load and Reload and write ZZ TOP - LOAD and ZZ TOP - RELOAD on em... actually halfway decent ZZ Top-style albums, they are. I havent actually heard any of ZZ Top's 90s era albums however.

Besides Rapeman, "Just Got Paid" was also covered by Ministry on last year's Cover Up album apparently too, though i havent heard it. The Ministry album Rio Grande Blood is a nice play on this one's title too.

Who ripped off who - ZZ Top or Rolling Stones?

It was ripped off of John Lee Hooker actually.... and that's fine... cause ZZ got fined.... and John was very generous with his money and helped a lot of musicians get dental work and medical work they needed with the $10.+ million dollars ZZ had to pay John Lee for ripping of his riffs!

Ahh... ZZ Top. Who would've thought after years with a bitter taste in my mouth (mainly due to my father liking them), I'd buy Ministry's 'Cover Up' album...

...featuring a cover called 'Just Got Paid', and instantly get hooked on ThreeBeards?

That song means a lot to me. You see, my first gig was a Ministry one. Of course, all I remember is Al Jourgensen shouting 'DOES ANYBODY HERE LIKE ZZ TOP!?!?!' and everybody going wild, before the band ripped into the song.

I really dig this album, maybe because it's my first real experience of good blues rock... who knows, but 7 out of 10 songs here score 5 stars on my iTunes, which is pretty good going!

And guess what! 7 out of 10 is 7/10! Just like what you give it! Only in my case, it's a HIGH 7! out of a LOW 10! Fuck on that, Sucker!

Add your thoughts?

Tres Hombres - Warner Bros. 1973
Rating = 9

Not to interrupt a perfectly fine automobile of a review page (by Mark Prindle), but I'd like to quickly address the humor and wit present in the act of ZZ Top. First of all, the idea of 2/3rds of a band growing beards down to their chests before reaching age 30 is pretty entertaining in and of itself. Secondly, they've got some awfully funny voices buried inside those sensual bodies and they're not afraid to whip them out when the situation calls for it. And finally - some of their lyrics are just KOOKY! Funny rhymes, weird concepts, and much more going on than you'd expect from a mere hillbilly blues band. Here, let me give you a few examples from this album alone....

(wherein ZZ Top creates a brand new verb): "Well, I'll be ridin' on the bus 'til I Cadillac"

(wherein ZZ Top shifts from generic rockers to something else entirely within a matter of seconds): "The joint was jumpin' like a cat on hot tin/Lord, I thought the floor was gonna give in!/Soundin' a lot like a House Congressional/'Cause we're experimental and professional!"

(wherein ZZ Top showcase their way with the ol' rhyme scheme): "I met a shiek from Mozambique/who led me to the Congo/He dreamed to go to Mexico/and sample a burrito."

(wherein ZZ Top reduces an intriguing story about a whorehouse into a series of silly noises): "A haw, haw, haw, haw!/A haw, haw, haw!/Well, I hear it's fine if you got the time/and the ten to get yourself in/A hmm, hmm!/And I hear it's tight most ev'ry night/but now I might be mistaken/Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm!"

And I didn't even mention the song about Billy running around inside a giant steel-cage ball until it catches on fire!

Well, now I have. But I hadn't before that.

Tres Hombres was ZZ Top's way of showing the world that they weren't just another decent group of blues-rock interpreters, but a creative, quirky and surprisingly intelligent trio of songwriters who simply preferred the blues-rock genre to any other. Long-time producer Bill Ham herein began the practice of having Billy manually double-track every guitar line so that it sounds like a different guitarist in each speaker blowing your socks off with the main riff as a third one plays lead on top. They also doubled or tripled the heaviness quotient, creating a much bassier and meaner sound than they'd had on the first two records. Best of all, the songs are uniformly terrific, mixing a whole smorgasbord of influences into a big ol' soupy bowl of hair.

Hits include: bitter guitar licker "Waitin' For The Bus"/passionate blues epiphany "Jesus Just Left Chicago" (a classic rock 'double-shot' as ubiquitous as "Heartbreaker/Livin' Lovin' Maid" and "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions"), fun metallic strutter "La Grange" (which provided the raw material for Van Halen's later "Hot For Teacher") and chuggling Judas Priest-meets-Steppenwolf metal anthem "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers." Shoulda-been hits include: the gritty "Master Of Sparks" (with its eerie disembodied slide guitar floating around in the ether), vocally gorgeous soul ballad "Hot, Blue & Righteous," happy-as-shit pop rocker "Move Me On Down The Line," sleazy sex thumper "Precious & Grace," jazzabilly pluckity-plucker "Sheik" and gospel cooldown "Have You Heard?" Bad songs include: the entire Styx catalog.

"Tres Hombres" is French for "Very Hombres" and I agree - when you haven't had much to eat a

It's no coincidence that the three men of ZZ Top named their third album Tres Hombres, a Spanish phrase that translates to Drei Manner in German, because, being dusty old Texans, they tended to do everything in a very "dry manner." However, it's worth noting that many of these songs contain religious imagery ("Hot, Blue & Righteous" seems to relate a religious conversion; "Have You Heard?" namedrops Heaven; "Jesus Just Left Chicago" discusses Christ finishing up a session with Steve Albini). The question of how such concerns are intended to fit comfortably alongside songs about whorehouses, threesomes and riding around inside a big steel-cage ball is left unanswered.

So remember kids, if your asshole teacher ever catches you sleeping in class, be sure and go "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZ TOP!" and start clapping as they jog into the room and start playing "Legs."

And for more information on "Precious & Grace," please see TV's Will & Grace.

Reader Comments

I agree with you here - it's kind of a tossup between "Tres Hombres" and "Eliminator" if you're looking for the best ZZ Top album. I personally don't really like the two gospel numbers here "Hot Blue and Righteous" and "Have You Heard", but that says more about my own tastes than any lack in quality. "La Grange" is overplayed on the radio, so I'm pretty sick of that one, but you can't deny it's a cool tune - with the "haw haw haw"s and "hmm hmm hmm hmm"s pretty much coming to define the ZZ Top attitude from that point onward - dopey, but in a knowing, ironic way. "Precious and Grace" is the great unknown track here (what a riff!), and "Sheik" is sly and tight. "Waiting for the Bus" is a killer leadoff track. Overall, easily their most consistently interesting album. 9/10.

Either the Stones ripped off ZZ Top or ZZ Top ripped off the Stones for "La Grange." Listen to the Slim Harpo blues cover "Shake Your Hips" on "Exile On Main Street" - it's practically the SAME GODDAMN SONG as "La Grange" - down to the percussion!

On a related note, both the Stones and ZZ Top are stealing Slim Harpo blind, anyway.

Add your thoughts?

Fandango - Warner Bros. 1975
Rating = 6

I know what you're hilariously thinking: "Scaramouch, scaramouch - Should I buy the Fandango!? Well, first of all, DON'T YOU EVER call me a stock character who appears as a boastful coward, you Sa Bum Nim Bitch. And secondly, no. Not until you own most of their others.

This album is half-studio, half-live, and half-not that great. The boring lyrics could have been written by anybody with a pencil, two of the three live tracks are spirited generica, and the third is essentially the band members taking turns auctioning off orgasms for 11 fun but endless and entirely nonmusical minutes. Luckily (and unsurprisingly), 4 of the 6 new studio tracks are absolute classics that rank up there with anything they've done. So it has that going for it. Which is nice.

Lyrical matter includes: (1) an alcoholic beverage, (2) the warden throwing a party at the county jail, (3) a medley, (4) an unfaithful woman, (5) a lost, lamented love, (6) a bar, (7) a prostitute, (8) a radio station and (9) a butt. Musical accompaniment includes (1) speedy standard 12-bar boogie woogie, (2) a terrible Elvis cover, (3) fast drumming and not much else, (4) pissed-off blues-rock, (5) sad, dark slow blooze, (6) happy but forgettable pop rock, (7) hokey C/W sung in a low redneck drawl, (8) ass-kicking speed rock, and (9) swaggering hard rokk choogle-boogie. Hilarious parodies of the song titles include: (1) "ThunderTURD," (2) "Jailhouse COCK," (3) "CRACKWHORE Medley: CRACKWHORE Love Affair, YELLOW Down PEEsy, Backdoor Love Affair NUMBER TWO, SCHLONG Distance Boogie," (4) "PEDERasty Dogs and Funky DING(DONG)S," (5) "Blue PEEN Blues," (6) "BALLinese," (7) "Mexican BlackTURD," (8) "TURD SHIT DONG PEE SEX," and (9) "Tush."

The funny thing about Bill Ham is that he makes all of TT Zop's albums sound different from each other. Take this one, for example. It's not heavy and bassy like Tres Hombres nor chorus-sheeny and noncommital like Rio Grande Mud: instead, it sounds like a hard rock album! Like Thin Lizzy or something. But performed by Bearded Cowpokes instead of Rotten (no!) Irish (no!) Blacks (no!) Dogs. (St. Martins Press 1994) And the next one would sound even DIFFERENT! And the one after that even DIFFERENTER! Then after that? Yes, even DIFFERENTER! And after that? THE DIFFERENTEST OF ALL!

And then the two after that would sound identical to it.


Say, you know what lyric I really don't need to hear in a song about a prostitute? "The wings of the blackbird will spread like an eagle for you."

Why? Because it's so confusing! What do you think he means by "wings"? Prostitutes don't have wings!!!!

And what's this "spread" nonsense? Enough with the metaphors!

Reader Comments

"Heard it on the X" is one of their best songs ever - they rarely played that fast and energetic before or since. The whole second side is pretty great actually, though I don't care if I never hear "Tush" again in my life, overplayed as it is on the radio. "Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings" is the great unknown track here - another neat, innovative guitar riff. "Mexican Blackbird" is a funny novelty piece and a nice change of pace. "Balinese" is a non-entity, but it's short so no big whoop.

The live side is a complete waste of time, though. Judging by the performances and the packaging of the album, it feels like ZZ Top is still trying to keep one foot planted in their early, Texasy redneck bar band days, even while their actual concurrent material was already progressing much further. They still wanted to be "That Little Ol' Band from Texas" so they play "Thunderbird" (pretty much Texas rock's national anthem in those days), "Jailhouse Rock" (why??), and a long boring jam around a mediocre song from their first album ("Backdoor Love Affair"). I've always wondered what a real live album from these guys would have sounded like in their early days. 6/10

Add your thoughts?

Tejas - Warner Bros. 1976
Rating = 8

"Tejas"? Don't they mean "TeXas"? Ha ha! Stupid old illiterate assholes spelling everything wrong! Hey - why not record a song called "Let's Put The 'J' Back In 'Sex,'" you bunch of stupid assholes??? Ha ha! Or no, I've got it -- "Merry JMas, everybody!" Ha ha! I'm making fun of you and your inability to spell "Texas" correctly! That's right, I'm talking to YOU, the entire country of Mexico!

Drat, that last line's gonna really upset the PR manager for Minus The Bear. I really need to cool it with my insensitive hatemongering. Just because people who aren't white are inferior is no reason to harp on and on about it. But how is that racism? After all, people who ARE white can be inferior too, if they're women or gay. And don't even get me STARTED about people with mustaches. And what's up with midgets and fat people? Christ, it's a wonder I can even walk out the door in the morning without THROWING UP, everybody's so inferior! Especially Catholics. And haven't we all taken just about enough from retarded people? And I don't mean to sound insensitive, but how long are we going to allow people dying of cancer to take jobs away from American workers? And surely I'm not the only one who's sick of not being able to go out for a nice dinner without running into a bunch of rednecks, jocks, metalheads, punks, geeks, retards, old bags, yuppies, art fags, hippies, crying babies, surfers, lawyers, bikers, science fiction geeks, treehuggers, hicks, mongoloids, wiggers, drunks, druggies, bums, sexists, homophobes and racists? I mean, I love everybody. How am I supposed to deal with so much ignorant prejudice oozing out of every pore of humanity? I can sit under a flower, but that only works for so long. I'm going to sing a song now, to teach us all of liberty and peace. It's set to the music of GG Allin's "I Wanna Fuck Myself":

"I hug a stranger 'cause we all have needs
I stand up so the elderly can have my seats
Anger doesn't give me satisfaction
I have a heart filled with compassion!

I want a love-filled shelf
I! Want a love-filled shelf
I want a love-filled shelf
I! Want a love-filled shelf
A love-filled shelf
I want a love-filled shelf

I like to hold a starving child's hand
Feel them come kiss me on the head
I like to hold them to my chest
And make them feel snug as a birdy's nest!

I want a love-filled shelf
I! Want a love-filled shelf
I want a love-filled shelf
I! Want a love-filled shelf
A love-filled shelf
I want a love-filled shelf
And nothing else!"

You know, the crazy thing is I'm not really being facetious here - at least, not as facetious as it seems like I'm being. I'm not the racist, angry buffoon that the PR manager of Minus The Bear has pegged me as, but I'm also not at all one of those transgressive creeps who piss on sensitivity and think that serial killers are admirable because they don't mask their natural animal aggression like the rest of us hypocritical sheeple. I'm not even sure what my true feelings are about this whole 'PR manager of Minus The Bear' thing. I mean, if he thought I sounded like an insensitive racist, then obviously other people might think that too. But is it my responsibility to make my jokes more obvious so that overly sensitive people with no sense of irony will get them? I mean, how exactly COULD I have made the joke in my 'white niggerlips' paragraph more obvious? Whether it was funny or not is an entirely different question; it was a throwaway paragraph I wrote in 30 seconds. But I've never had any complaints about the so-called 'P.C. Police,' so being attacked by one (however mildly) is quite disconcerting. I mean, I consider myself ON THESE PEOPLES' SIDE. I hate racism, sexism and homophobia as much as they do. The difference is that I joke about these issues rather than preach against them. I guess that's the problem; people who don't know me are likely to think that my 'fag' jokes are in fact actual 'fag' jokes rather than 'homophobe' jokes (which, I promise you, they are). I wouldn't go so far as to say that my 'insensitive' jokes are intended as social commentary, but I would go so far as to say that they are intended as a SATIRE of actual insensitivity. Because I'm not by trade an insensitive person; I'm just ridiculous.

Also, there's this album called Tejas that I wanted to mention.

I really, really like this record. In yet another departuring shift of style-tone, ZZ Top is using a lot of clean (ie non-distorted) guitar tones while showing the same level of diversity and confluencing influences as they had on Tres Hombres. The rhythm guitars are still doubled in stereo, but they're cleaner and plicky-pluckier. The core instrumentation is enhanced by moments of creepy quivering windtones, gorgeous pedal steel, harmonica and even a goodtime accordion (!). And perhaps most interestingly of all, depending on what interests you personally, is that Frank Beard is trying out all sorts of weird new jittery, nervous-type drum lines rather than the straightforward boom-chicka-boom for which he is world renowned. What is this crazy ZZ Top band out there trying to prove? And why didn't it have any hits at all!?

Nobody likes it when I describe every single song on a record, but I feel compelled to impress upon you the wonderful stylistic diversity displayed by our bearded Texas mongooses on this sorely overlooked release. Look at these songs - just LOOK at them. Don't listen to them yet, just LOOK at them. In no particular order (aside from that which they appear on the record), there's (a) Stonesy pop-rock, (b) Nervous 12-bar driving pulse-rock, (c) Evil blues lickery with creepy sound effects, (d) Physically unpleasant herky-jerk, (e) Johnny Cash-esque rockabilly, (f) standard ZZ Top choogle (underwritten), (g) Southern rock with beeeeAUTIFUL pedal steel breaks, (h) Sluggish shuffly boredom, (i) Surprisingly infectious redneck C/W, and (j) Romantic, moody Spanish guitar instrumental.

That's "Romantic, moody Spanish guitar instrumental." By ZZ Top. There is NO WAY IN HELL you would recognize this song ("Asleep In The Desert") as being by ZZ Top. The same for "She's A Heartbreaker," the catchiest 'rockers pretending to be hicks' C/W song since "Dead Flowers." Same even for "Snappy Kakkie," the ugly herky-jerk that sounds bitter enough to be by a leather-clad metal band (with an odd sense of rhythm). And yeah, you'll recognize the others as ZZ Top, but only because of their bubbly, effervescent singing voices.

The lyrics are a step up from Fandango!, though they suffer from not being about a guy running around in a big steel-caged ball. Instead, topics of discussion include lost love (twice), drunk driving, sex, a manizin' woman, a favorite gambling joint, and a couple of no-good lowdown characters of ill repute (Mexican gangster and drug dealer). There's also "Snappy Kakkie," which the band claims is a euphism for 'poontang,' but the actual song sounds like there's some sort of armed revolution going on so who knows what the Hell.

Memorable passages include:

"How could anybody be so unkind
To arrest a man for drivin' while blind?"

"He was caught, he was bound
In la casa de Calaboose
He was tried, he was found
And readied for the noose"

"Oh I'm makin' my way back home
Least that's what I told her on the phone"

"I've gotten good at missing her
I practice all the time
While I drive the Pan Am highway thru
With that cactus friend of mine"

"She used to drive a beat up pickup
Down around San Antone
Stealin' the heart of every guy in town
Includin' the one I own"

So if you don't mind some cleanliness and stylistic experimentation in your ZZ Top, tell the malinformed naysayers to 'shove it up your ass, you asshole' and buy Tejas. Here, I'll even come up with an advertising slogan for it:

Tejas -- An ejcellent JJJ-rated masterpiece of ejcitement! You'll Xizz all over yourself!

Reader Comments

Cheez Whiz, I barely remember this one at all. The word that comes to mind when trying to remember this album is that it was certainly "subtle" for a ZZ Top album. Which makes me think that if I listened to it again with adult ears ("Adult Ears" would be a good name for a band) in a nice clean remastered version, I might really appreciate it better today. Another thing that stands out in my memory is that it's the only one of their first 5 albums that isn't represented on the popular "Best of ZZ Top" album that provided many with their first taste of the pre-Deguello years. Even though I only listened to it a handful of times over 20 years ago though, "Snappy Kakkie" still goes through my head a lot, usually when I'm putting on pants.

To the asshole to thinks the Tejas is misspelled. It is not.The name Texas is derived form the Indain word tejas that means friend, so the spelling is correct. Go look it up in the dictionary and get your head of your rearend.

This is definetely my favourite ZZ Top album. I grew up listening to this band thanks to my father and while Eliminator is more instantly likeable, this has got much more to offer. The overall mood is very chilled and mellow - I can remember listening in the dark as I went to sleep, stoned, a couple of years ago and could almost hear my ears thanking me for feeding them such luscious tones...You can picture the heat coming off the desert highway on this one as Billy experiments with various different (GREAT) guitar tones. Highlights include "Ten Dollar Man" (rocking, but mellow too), "El Diablo", "Enjoy and Get It" (Trucker music!!!) and, of course, "Asleep in the Desert", not only my favourite ZZ Top song but one of my all time favourite songs ever. It manages to be intensely relaxing without being boring at all, and has such a great vibe to it.

However, "Snappy Kakkie" is, as the kids would say, "totally fucking gay".

Jeffery Hoelscher
It's always puzzling to me when someone doesn't get what is obviously a joke. It happens over and over and I wonder, 'how the fuck did you find this website?'
Dear r3blue,
How the fuck did you find this website?
And what does r3blue mean?
Oh, and this record had a hit. I'm too lazy to figure out what it was, but it's the first song on the record. At least it was a hit on my cock-rock station.

Add your thoughts?

Deguello - Warner Bros. 1979
Rating = 8

The Handbook of Texas Online defines "Deguello" as "Music played by the Mexican army bands on the morning of March 6, 1836 that was the signal for Antonio López de Santa Anna's attack on the Alamo. The word signifies the act of beheading or throat-cutting and in Spanish history became associated with the battle music, which, in different versions, meant complete destruction of the enemy without mercy." I don't know if this was just a early bootlegged demo of Deguello or what, but knowing this, is it any wonder we lost the battle? How is "The Pussyass-Spangled Shit Banner" supposed to compete with "Cheap Sunglasses"? No wonder Davy Crockett ate a Mexican dick that tragic day.

Say! Are you a fan of the low-down no-good boogie woogie electric bloooooze? Then honey child, ZZ Top's just released an album tailormade for the low-down dirty rotten stinkin' filthy smelly reeking rancid abominable putrid boogie woogie electric bloooooooze fan inside you. A concerted effort to avoid experimentation and get back to the rhythm, soul and blooooooooooooooooooooze of their earlier records, Deguello succeeds through energetic performances, chunky distorted guitar tones and their thickest, fullest and loudest mix yet.

Hits you may know from this one include "I Thank You," "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," "A Fool For Your Stockings," "Manic Mechanic" (the only 'experimental' piece on here) and aforementioned "Cheap Sunglasses." Unfortunately, as wonderfully hooky and sleazy as all of these songs are, they also comprise five of only six great songs on the record (the sixth being a dark, weird blues-rocker called "Esther Be The One"). The four remaining tracks are generic electric boogie-woogie blues - well-performed, of course, but so melodically uninteresting that they make George Thorogood sound like an actual songwriter. Is it cute to hear our bearded friends try their hand at harmonic saxophone work? Sure it is! But does a song it alone make? Shit no. Like many folks, my brain is constantly seeking out 'new information,' and I'm afraid that there's not a whole lot of unfamiliar data to be found in a by-the-numbers 12-bar electric blues number. (Except for the cure for AIDS that they detail in the middle-eight of "Hi Fi Mama," but I'm talking musically.)

I do still enjoy the performances of these weaker tracks, as cliched as the 'licks' and 'hot twangin' are, so I'm fine giving the album a really low 8 on the strength of the five radio hits and "Esther Be The One." Again, these tracks just ooze sleaziness and cool sludgy bloozy vibes while still whipping out a bit of funk, some weird chords, unexpected speed note-runs, and most interesting to me personally, they've got this new guitar tone they use sometimes that I can't differentiate from an organ! Granted, I'm ass-dumb but usually I can at least tell whether something is a guitar or a keyboard. But due to the slight chorus/flange effect Billy is using, when he plays certain high chords or notes, it sounds just like an organ to me. If you're familiar with these songs, please help me out with this. The high chords in "Cheap Sunglasses" are an organ, correct? They have to be; you can even sort of hear the keys being depressed, right? Okay, so for the longest time I assumed that the high chords in "I Thank You" were also an organ. But now I realize that I can hear the pick impact against the strings, so that seems to be a guitar, just with some effects on it. So if I'm correct on those two (and I hope/think I am), what the FUCK is making those high chords during the breaks in "Manic Mechanic"? You know, like in the intro, there's the rumbling low guitar chord that keeps being interspersed by really high "BWEE!"s -- is that high "BWEE!" a guitar or an organ? None of the band members are credited with playing organ in the liner notes, but I know that's gotta be an organ in "Cheap Sunglasses," so what the fuck? Or am I crazy and that IS somehow a guitar driving "Cheap Sunglasses"? You know, the middle part with the "Bwee! Bwee-bwee! VOOOOOOH (vooooh!)" bits. But enough about my inadequacies.

The lyrics focus chiefly on women and cars. Other unique touches include a slightly flanged or phased effect on some of the vocals, making Billy sound like he's queasy and about to vomit.

Say, has anybody ever mentioned to you what a talented guitar player Billy Gibbons is? Because he really is. I hate guitar solos more than most people hate natural breasts, but even I enjoy probably 65% of Billy's solos. They're melodic as shit! Sometimes (as in the case of the later hits "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man"), they're the catchiest parts of the whole song! I have to assume that when the band rehearses new material, Billy has Bert and Todd (or whatever the other guys' names are - Steve and whoever) jam on the two or three main chords over and over again for like three hours so he can work out a ton of different hooks to play over them. Then, where most bands would turn these hooks into guitar riffs, Billy just makes them part of his solo. I hate to refer to a later track again, but the last couple minutes of "Sharp Dressed Man" just blow me away. I LOVE the shit he's playing on top of those two morbid chords! Perhaps I'll bring it up again when I actually review that album.

But yes, Billy is an excellent lead guitarist. I advise you to listen very carefully to all of his solos and learn from them, so that your shittyass solos will stop being so fuckin' boring. As an aside, hilarious prank call artist Longmont Potion Castle pointed out to me a couple days ago that Billy was one of the first to use that thumb/pick harmonics thing so enjoyed in the solos of songs like "La Grange." So check that out with your ear as well.

Getting back to the album I'm ostensibly reviewing here, Deguello is for electric-blues fans, plain and simple. They do put their own ZZ Top stamp on the best material, but even the hits (aside from the idiosyncratic "Manic Mechanic") are pretty well planted in the soul/blues genres (though "Cheap Sunglasses" is quite a funky take on that genre). This is fine, of course, as most long-time ZZ Top fans would agree that they are first and foremost an electric blues band anyway. But me, I'm not really a huge fan of blues music, so I like it when they mix in other elements as well (or at least come up with killer hooks like "Waitin' For The Bus"!). Still, it's a very, very strong and confident album full of endlessly listenable hits. I give it a 2.

Oh, did I mention that the NON-red dots above each review signify the score? I also put asterisks on each side of the album title if the record REALLY fuckin' blows. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to some music by my favorite artists, Miles Davis and Tori Amos.

Reader Comments

That line at the end about how you review records is great. Subvert a ten year legacy of reviews in two minutes. Brilliant! I don't even have this album. I've been too busy listening to Humble Pie to get to ZZ Top, but "Cheap Sunglasses" is a good song. Quite witty. R.I.P Mark Prindle

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El Loco - Warner Bros. 1981
Rating = 7

Years ago, when all of us here at the site were children, and Little Barney played the tangerine and Bob Willie Jeeves carried around a satchel of miniature wheelbarrows, I bought my fodder a copy of this album because I knew he liked Tres Hombres and the (at the time) recently-released Eliminator (My Bowels). I was a mere 11 years of age at the time and remember being absolutely SCANDALIZED by the final verse of "Tube Snake Boogie," which states, "I've got a gal, she lives on the hill/She won't do it, but her sister will!" Another four or five years passed before I realized, "Wait a minute. The song is called 'TUBE SNAKE BOOGIE'!" Thank God I didn't know what a 'pearl necklace' was at the time or I'd have gotten a boner all over the album!

El Loco might be the strangest record that ZZ Top has ever released, a fact that comes across doubly strange considering how straightforward their previous LP was. Chances are that you know three of the songs on here: the fun blues-based boogie rockers "Party On The Patio," "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Pearl Necklace." What you may NOT know, however, is that those are the only rock and roll songs on the whole guckin' album! The other tracks can be separated into the following genres: strangely fatigued attempts to combine pop and blues (3), enjoyably oddball new wave/novelty tracks (one of which is powered by Cars-style goofy keyboard beeps and boops!) (2), and absolutely horfuckinawfulenduloushittiable Adult Contemporary Ballads (2).

But it's not just the songwriting that's strange -- the mix is a complete 450-reverse axle kick from Deguello, replacing the thick sludgey distorted rhythm guitars with thin, clean, chorused, wispy little fag guitars (for fags) that are mostly drowned out by the drums. You can still hear the lead guitar loud and clear, but it too is strangely subdued for most of the record, often just scrapplin' out twitchy Dire Straits-like solos.

Even the vocals are weirder than normal! "Tube Snake Boogie" finds Billy singing low and guttural through a thick chorus/phase effect, "Heaven, Hell Or Houston" presents a barely comprehensible suave voice talking over a speakerphone, "Ten Foot Pole"'s vocals are a bunch of impossible-to-decipher mumbling, the ballads feature a grotesque attempt to sing in a pretty falsetto 'I Love You' voice, and even in the normal tracks, Billy's voice is clearly getting hoarse from years of misuse.

So put those three elements together (strange, lazy and misguided songwriting; weak, watery mix; effed-in-the-ahhh vocals) and you've got a relatively lousy yet endlessly fascinating release!

So let's take a look at what our hirsute George W. Bushers are singing about on The Crazy:

- German Shepherds! Henry The Dog is part-German Shepherd! Also, the song isn't actually about German Shepherds, but it mentions one in the lyrics, so from now on it's called "The German Shepherd Song.".

- Lost love. Twice. But what do you expect an Adult Contemporary Ballad to be about? Sex with a car?

- Sex with a car. ("She shakes and shimmies all over the road/She's always happy when she carry a load"!?!)

- Nonsense. (Is the Internet just broken or is the first verse to "Ten Foot Pole" honestly "Tidify da, sinmah gough dah hep haing ding fum gogamamo/ Stry da fings thadd awondt oont do butt any il thang thad a wondt meeto/ Shees my nurirng my nu esit seten' ra mind at a ros reshoo/ I don loo kadang doo my net loohah leten meen you"?)

- Ejaculating all over a girl's breasts ("She was gettin' bombed and I was gettin' blown away/And she held it in her hand and this is what she had to say/A pearl necklace!/She wanna pearl necklace!")

- Throwing a huge party at a stranger's house simply because nobody's home

- Referring to your penis as a 'tube snake"

While we're on the topic, what in God's Holy Poop is "Heaven, Hell or Houston" supposed to be about? Is the narrator a spy? The Devil? I don't get it! Make me get it!

I like this album. It's really not very good, but at the same time, it's great! I mean it SUCKS, but it rules! It's the worst thing I've ever heard in my life, but I ate the CD so I could hear how it sounds through each phase of the digestive process! I love it! I hate it and I love it!

(My dad just hates it)

Reader Comments

El Loco! Claro que si! Esto fue mi primer disco de ZZ Top. My best friend in 6th grade had an older brother who was out partying all the time, so we would mess with his music collection while he was away. One time I accidentally broke a plastic cover for his cassette deck, and my friend took the blame and later got the shit kicked out of him. Sorry chief... my bad. Anyway, one of the coolest albums he had was "El Loco". Another was "Fair Warning".

As a result of the memories it brings back, it's remained one of my favorites. "Tube Snake Boogie" will always be remembered as the song that got me started on this band, and "Pearl Necklace" is probably my all around favorite song they've ever done. I even like some of the more questionable songs on here: "Ten Foot Pole" is funny, "I Wanna Drive You Home" is a neat mid-tempo groover (though it does sound like Dire Straits' first album, which is ok with me Mr. P because I happen to like that album), and I even like the mellow adult pop of "Leila". On the down side, "It's so Hard" and "Don't Tease Me" are suckjobs etched in vinyl. The rest are cool though. 8/10

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* Eliminator - Warner Bros. 1983 *
Rating = 10

You know that candy Mentos, "The Freshmaker"? Well, they should've called this album Elimentosor because it's "The HITmaker!"

You know how Sherlock Holmes says "Elementary" whenever he solves a mystery? Well, they should've called this album Elementaror because it solves the mystery of HOW TO MAKE A GREAT ALBUM!

You know that old Sports Illustrated model Elle McPherson with the great big tits? Well, they should've called this album Ellemcphersonor because of all the GREAT BIG HITS!

Hang on, I want to keep doing this forever.

But more on topic, this is ZZ Top going METAL. Not just METAL, but DANCEY-METAL. Which sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. The entire record is built upon huge, heavy, fuzzy walls of distorted chords riding a combination of Frank Beard's real-life drumming and an electronic pulse beat. It's a manly, rockin' album featuring Billy Gibbons' greatest lead guitar work and wheeziest, toughest vocals ever. You know how AC/DC started out with charismatic, goofy-voiced Bon Scott and then switched to serious singing whiskey-lipped hoarseman Brian Johnson? ZZ Top on this record has made the same sort of exchange -- but within the same guy!!! Compare Billy's Deguello vocals to these and you'll all be like, "Holy Christ! He doesn't sound anywhere near as comical anymore! In fact, he sounds like he's going to break a bottle over my head! Ahh!" and then you'll run away and a bottle will fly out of the stereo.

Alternately, Dusty Hill sounds exactly like he always has because, due to a childhood injury, he fears change.

In addition to bringing in thick metallic chuggling guitar toppings and pulse beats, Eliminator features some of the greatest riffs and hooks the band has ever written, resulting in such radio and MTV smashes as "Gimme All Your Lovin," "Got Me Under Pressure," "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs" and "TV Dinners." Although none of these songs are actually interchangeable ("GAYL" is a four-chord metal monster, "GMUP" a speedy fuzz-pulser, "SDM" a hard cynical blues rocker, "L" a playful electronic pop-blues-metal smash, and "TVD" a slothful thumper with "Dirty Laundry" synth taps), the layman (sex guy) could easily be forgiven for thinking the album is one song played over and over again. This is mainly because of the monolithic one-trick-pony production, but part of the blame has to be placed on the band for including a few too many songs whose verses feature a total of two chords. It's not a huge deal or anything, but the album would have been just fine without, say, "If I Could Only Flag Her Down." Or "Dirty Dog," which is pretty much "Got Me Under Pressure Pt. II: The Less Ass-Kicking One." In other words, their decision to stray beyond their well-established "Ten Songs Per Record" rule may have ultimately been to the album's detriment. Nevertheless, no album with five hits as wonderful as those I just mentioned -- not to mention non-hits as energetically rockin' as "Bad Girl," night time soberiffic as "I Need You Tonight," and Miami Vice-goes-industrial as "Thug" -- could possibly receive less than a 10 on the Prindle 'Scale-O-Shit.'

See, here's the thing: I had originally given the 10 to Tres Hombres, having concluded that Eliminator was a bit too much of one thing to fill a full 45 minutes. However, I've spent the last hour giving myself a headache over this stupid, pointless issue (exacerbated by the fact that ZZ Top purists will 'tear me a new one' for giving the 10 to the MTV hit album instead of one of the '70s blues-rock ones), and I've reached this conclusion: as wonderful and diverse and eminently listenable as Tres Hombres is, Eliminator truly EXCITES me, every single time I listen to it. Where Tres Hombres is a wide-ranging and well-written selection of '70s hard rock, blues rock, gospel and soul, Eliminator is one long, loud, metallic kick in the face -- with a disco beat! So I'll leave it up to you if you're determined to buy only one ZZ Top album instead of both pieces of this recommended pair. If you want a great blues-hard-rock album to listen to and dig the hooks and tap your foot, go with Tres Hombres; if you want to bang your head and shake your booty at the same time, Eliminator's your man. The music on this record is mean, hard, loud, (occasionally) fast, and full of hilarious '80s pulse beats.

The lyrics on the other hand are just gross. If their goal with the long beards and furry spinning guitars was to come across as a group of dirty old men, they certainly completed that impression with lyrics like these (from six different songs):

"If I blow my top, will you let it go to your head?"

"She don't like other women, she likes whips and chains/She likes cocaine and flipping out with great Danes."

"Look at this, what a pair, she won't let me touch her there/She's so discriminating./This is weird, it's time to blow, I just heard the rooster crow/I guess I'll have to spank my monkey/I'm running out of time/I'm about to lose my mind/I got the six/Gimme your nine."

"She's got hair down to her fanny/She's kinda jet set, try to undo her panties."

"I dug your brush and your ass is fine/I dug your jelly and your mighty mind/But you rubbed it on another guy/You're history and this is why"

"I know a girl that likes to flirt/She can do it in a mini skirt/She's a bad girl!"

Moving onward to other issues, this is one of my father's all-time favorite records, along with AC/DC's Back In Black. He has worn out so many LP, cassette and CD copies of these two releases that my brother and I laugh ourselves silly at his poor old man expense. Nevertheless, let this be a recommendation to all you Back In Black fans: Eliminator is a hard, tough, loud album that sounds as exciting today as it did 23 years ago, if at times a bit dated, what with the galloping pulse-beats and all.

But they're fun pulse-beats! Not like those boring ASSHOLE pulse beats that I keep feeling all over my body, the pricks. (Assholes)

Which reminds me of a joke:

Q. How can you tell the difference between Santa Claus and a member of ZZ Top?

A. When Santa Claus says, "I'm going to put this candy cane in your stocking," he's not pointing at the swirly red stripe he just drew on his penis!

I can do better than that. Let me try again.

Q. How can you tell the difference between Santa Claus and a member of ZZ Top?

A. When little kids sit on Santa's lap, they don't hold their nose and go, "Phew! Your beard smells like a big pussy!"

Yes. Much better. This year's Church Christmas Pageant is gonna be the best one ever!

Reader Comments

I have to say, you nailed this album's rating, this is by far ZZ Top's best album. From the hilarious lyrics of "TV Dinners" to the awesome guitar and synth of "Legs" this album has it all. Leading this album off with "Gimmie All Your Lovin'", "Got Me Under Pressure", and "Sharp Dressed Man" hooks the listener early, and ZZ Top manages to keep the listener's attention all the way through. From the first time i listened this album all the way through, it has been my favorite.

Jeffery Hoelscher
Huh. I didn't know people liked this album.

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Afterburner - Warner Bros. 1985
Rating = 7



"Look at the hooks on your pants!"

"What about them?"

"Well... (*dramatic pause*) They make you wanna dance."

(*awkward silence*) "Really? The hooks on my pants do all that?"

"Well, take a look for yourself!"

Hey! (*tappity tappity tappity*) You're right! (*tappity tappity tappity*)

(*tappity tappity tappity*) Hey! Now I'm dancing too! (*tappity tappity tappity*)

Wow! That's great! (*tappity tappity tappity*)

(*tappity tappity tappity*)

(*tappity tappity tappity*)

And thus begins my 12-act tapdance ballet "Songs In The Key Of Velcro Fly." But until I've managed to secure funding from the NEA (National 'Ey! Nice Tapdancing!' Association), might I suggest that you listen to what critics excitedly proclaimed "Eliminator's disappointing follow-up" upon its 1985 release. I speak, of course, of El Loco.


I speak, of course, of Aftermash starring Jamie Farr. Apparently having a bunch of MTV hits got ZZ Top all excited about their new youthful demographic, because Afterburner sounds like a record for 13-year-olds. The all-enveloping walls of distortion have been turned down to make room for corny '80s synths and a HUGE (and shitty) fake drum sound. There are still distorted guitars present, this being an obvious attempt to follow up on the success of Eliminator and all, but there's no menace or ass-kicking to be found. Instead, it's a light-hearted fuzzed-out rock album full of catchy pop hooks and dumb electronic effects.

Remember that timeless "VREEK!" noise from "Owner Of A Lonely Heart"? Don't look now, but somebody's reinvigorated it, tossed in some swishy scratch noises from Herbie Hancock's "Rock It," and whipped up a hot new hit single called "Sleeping Bag"! Okay, I'm done with this paragraph.

Friendly, poppy, teen-geared, synthetic and NOT hard rocking - that's Afterburner in a nutsac. It certainly had its hits though: aside from the so-dumb-they're-awesome "Sleeping Bag" and "Velcro Fly," North America's airwaves were lit up by the disturbingly radio-friendly emo-pop rocker "Stages" and senior prom cliche "Rough Boy." Plus, speaking for myself down in Georgia USA, I used to hear the fast loud simple goodtimes of "Woke Up With Wood," "Delirious" and "Can't Stop Rockin'" on 96 Rock quite a bit too. That leaves - what, THREE non-hits!?

Unfortunately, these three non-hits are pretty atrocious (hence the grade of 7 out of 10). "Planet Of Women" has two parts: one is stolen from "Got Me Under Pressure," the other from "Gimme All Your Lovin'." "Dipping Low In The Lap Of Luxury" also has two parts: both are stolen from "Gimme All Your Lovin'." And "I Got The Message" features the most pathetically dated synthwork on the record -- and yes, although it DOES eventually turn into a catchy loud pop song, it's still only half-good. Add that to the half-bad "Rough Boy" (I love the soaring lead guitar line too, but have you listened to the verses lately? They sound like Damn Yankees!) and that's a 7. Look, it's all mathematics. Nobody listens to music for the art of it; everybody wants to know exactly how much, rounded to the nearest percentage, they should enjoy it. And that's the service I provide here at WWW.MarkPrindle'sOfficialMusicQualityRatings.com. Unfortunately sometimes I have a headache and an official music quality rating will suffer unnecessarily, but what am I - a machine?

Yep! A LOVE machine, that is!!! Heh heh HEH heh.

Therefore, as a vibrating dildo, I feel uniquely qualified to (*nnnNNNNNNNNN*) AHH! TOM CRUISE'S ASS!

That's good comedy. We all had a few laughs that time.

On the lyrical tip-top, most of this stuff is pretty inoffensive compared to Eliminator (even "Velcro Fly" and "Sleeping Bag" are surprisingly void of crass innuendo), but I think we all know what "Woke Up With Wood" and "Dipping Low In The Lap Of Luxury" are about! Heh heh heh. Yeah, we do.

So once you've enjoyed the songs about the fireplace couch and the upscale mall, be sure and g

Although kind of a letdown after the heart-stomping Eliminator, Afterburner at least demonstrates a willingness on AA Bottom's part to experiment with yet another musical direction. And the resulting album, though not perfect, is a heck of a lot of fun! Unfortunately, the band kinda turned to shit after this one so put on your Shit Hat if you're going to read any further.

Because I literally covered the rest of the page in shit, as a visual cue to go along with the text.

Ha ha! I just noticed that I accidentally called them "AA Bottom" a few paragraphs ago! Ha ha! I'm a regular commodian!

Ha ha! "Commodian"! Get it!?!??!

(*dramatic pause*)

Do you ever get the urge to kick your fingers in the ass?

Reader Comments

we_marsh@adelphia.net (Barb)
My idea of heaven is listening to ZZ top and cruising in my just got it on the 4TH of July, Candy Apple Red 2007 PT Cruiser. Love you guys and have for a long time. Now looking for ZZ key chain.

This is quite possibly the most 80's album of all time. It's like they were going out of the way to use every then-current production cliche. It's still a somewhat fun album, though

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Recycler - Warner Bros. 1990
Rating = 5

I think it's nice of bands to name their albums things like Recycler and Same Shit, Different Cover and Ideas Are Hard, because it makes it easy to figure out which albums to avoid in their discography. Although not the worst album of their career, Recycler certainly is a stinker compared to everything that came before it.

Retaining the Eliminator/Afterburner band logo and iconography but once again slightly altering their musical approach, ZZ Top fashioned Recycler as neither a roof-smashing Eliminator ripoff nor a bouncy Afterburner II for little kids, but rather a half-hearted return to a more serious bluesy sound. Unfortunately, the fake drums plant the entire project back in 1985, several of the songs are almost unlistenably sluggish (this problem would plague their next couple of records as well), and most disconcertingly, only about four of the songs seem to have any sort of hook at all.

So what happened? Why did it take ZZ Top five years to come up with their weakest album yet? I don't know. I'm even more confused by the almost unbelievably pointless and drab approach they would take on Antenna and Rhythmeen. Is it possible for songwriters to just completely lose every ounce of creativity and energy they once had? I mean, regardless of your feelings towards (or against) Afterburner, you can't deny that that album had memorable, recognizable hooks. Recycler has a few endlessly listenable classics - notably the hits "My Head's In Mississippi" (huge fuzzy swingin' happyblues!) and "Decision Or Collision" (fast lil' choogie boogie!), along with surprisingly effective moody blueser "2000 Blues" and Back To The Future III's catchy AC/DC-ish "Doubleback" - but the rest of the record is an all-too-prescient glimpse into ZZ Top's lethargically-paced two-fuzzed-out-chords-and-a-basic-blues-lick, singing-every-word-on-the-same-note future.

Thank you, Mr. Hyphen, for your hard work during that last sentence. "You're welcome, Mr. Prindle! But you can call me '-'!" - Mr. Hyphen.

Since there's not much else to say about the music (actually "Concrete And Steel" isn't too bad, but the other five songs certainly are bad), let's play a wonderful lyrics game. I'm going to present to you a number of phrases culled from tracks on this album, and you're going to guess which of them are intended as sexual metaphor. Put on your thinking car because here we go!

1. "Slick as glass, and just as fast"

2. "Tastes so fine like french silk pie"

3. "She threw her wrench at my monkey"

4. "I wanna lie where her eagle flies/She's got my love pressure on the rise"

5. "Got to have a little piece of paradise"

6. "Last night I saw a naked cowgirl"

7. "I wish to apply my manhood"

8. "She's been suckin' on her watermelon rind"

9. "I'd set the tracking system with your safety fuse"

10. "If you need good hot grillin', try my burger stand"

11. "You see the hot sauce can't be beat/Sit back and open wide"

Did you make all your guesses and fine-tune your thinking car? If so, please scroll down for the answers:











Phrases numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and ll are intended as sexual metaphor. Phrase number 6 is not intended as sexual metaphor, but rather as a blatant sexual statement.

Did you win? If so, congratulations! Here's your prize!


(Prize courtesy Mr. Hyphen)

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Antenna - RCA 1994
Rating = 4

This was where they finally dropped their sleek Eliminator logo and old-timey car schtick, and tried to get back to a non-processed true blues guitar lickin' sound. The sound is definitely there, and any fan of Billy's blues guitar soloin' will probably be all over it like an angry swarm of bees on a little kid riding a tricycle. Unfortunately, the first three songs are by far the catchiest, leaving the rest to fester into a pile of endless tepid drumbeats topped with maybe two basic chords, two different singing notes, and endless Gibbons bluesmerizing. I know I've called him a great guitarist in the past, but even I can't get into his solos when there's no actual riff backing them up. Not even his awesome guitar tone - his thickest, sludgiest, heaviest, most processed and most distorted yet - can save this garden of formulaic blues-rock songs.

Also, the fuzzy synth pulses aren't completely gone; they're just slower! You can still hear them in several of the songs, alongside a terrible, ball-less 'pip-pippity' drum sound. I'm not going to get angry at Mr. Bill Ham for mixing the drums so weakly though; as you may know, his wife was murdered shortly after Recycler came out -- by a young insane man who just wanted her car. You (me) get all pissy because a band forgets how to write decent material, then you read about a horrific tragedy like that and it puts everything into perspective. Who gives a shit if this album blows, as long as the people I care about are okay? Thus, I give it a 10.

However, regardless of the 10, ZZ Top's 'songwriting' on this release for the most part consists of inanely generic blues-rock chord sequences straight out of the Rolling Stones' recent back catalog (listen to "PCH" and "Cherry Red" and tell me those aren't post-'78 Keith Richards riffs), midtempo beats, 'blues' vocal lines consisting of every word semi-shouted at one note, and five or six guitar solos. The exceptions are the decently-chord-sequenced single "Pincushion," traditional but beautiful fuzz-blues ballad "Breakaway," awesome hard rocking lick-driven "World Of Swirl," and quirky (but overlong) stereotastic cowboy sloper "Girl In A T-Shirt." The rest is slothful, lazy, boring, disappointing and instantly forgettable.

Likely innuendo-laden tracks include "Fuzzbox Voodoo" (get it? fuzz? box? I didn't until I read the lyrics. Generally one neither refers to an effects pedal as 'she,' nor gets "down with a fuzzbox / pounding and a workin' it through"); "Cherry Red" (He's addicted to the feel of her cherry red, see. Could be wine, I guess. But COME ON - IT'S NOT FUCKING WINE!); and - now I could very well be wrong about this one - but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that "PCH" does not in fact stand for "Pacific Coast Highway" in this context. My wife suggests "Pussy Cunt Hairpie," but I've no proof aside from the chorus "Too much, not enough PCH." Would one generally complain about having an abundant yet insufficient amount of a street? Not unless he was fuckin' that street's sweet warm manhole covered in hair, I'd say!

Also, Billy's voice is growing oldmanishly growly and hoarse, and all the songs are too long. In addition, my copy is in an ugly lime green case. I'm not sure if it actually came in this case or if I put it in there later, but either way I docked the CD five points because of it.

But don't worry - it was just a LITTLE Five Points!!! (*shout-out to old Atlanta cool person hangout with the record store and the pizza place*)

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Rhythmeen - RCA 1996
Rating = 3

It's a good thing this CD isn't a fishing pole, because it DOESN'T HAVE ANY HOOKS!!! Also, CDs are tiny so you'd have to hold it really close to the boat, probably closer than a fish would feel comfortable approaching. I guess you could tie a string around it and throw it further out that way, but first of all a fish isn't going to mistake a shiny flat disc for a worm, and secondly even if it's a really dumb fish who does fall for your gag, the disc will likely break in two the minute he takes a bite out of it. I know fish teeth -- Lordy, I do know fish teeth.

Incidentally, God loves it when you call him "Lordy," so start doing that in Church and on trips to Bethlehem.

If this CD were a third party candidate who ruined the 2000 election and got George Bush elected, it would be Ralph NADIR because this is the worst album ZZ Top has ever made. I don't know if you've ever been sick, but last night I went to bed feeling pretty physically awful (feverish and achey), and in my troubled dreamstate, all I did was listen to and talk about these three shitty ZZ Top albums (Antenna, Rhythmeen and XXX) over and over and over again. That's not something I'd want to do when AWAKE, let alone asleep! Unshockingly, I didn't wake up this morning feeling any fonder of Rhythmeen than I did last night. It STINKS!

Billy "Waxing" Gibbousing has torn both his throat and his guitar tone into gruff, weird shreds, and has added to the latter an exciting tremelo effect that makes it sound even less musical! Otherwise Rhythmeen is basically Antenna Part II: Electric Oolagoob: old bearded people playing stupefyingly slow, boring, cliched, hookless blues rock. The drums sound better than on the last one (and are pumped through some odd hipster effects here and there), the keyboards really ARE gone finally, and the three good songs are spread throughout the CD rather than all crammed at the beginning, but that's about all the positives I can give you for this load of empty hay.

I can get a bit more specific about the positives though: (a) The title track, (b) "What's Up With That" and (c) "My Mind Is Gone" are fun, singalongable songs of (a) macho lickery, (b) laidback goodtime fuzz and (c) dark crunchiness. And it's a scream to hear Billy's guitar dissipate into wretched, unmanageable, distortion-ridden grunge racket in "Loaded." But the other eight songs are -- God, it's almost like Billy was asleep when they recorded it. He barely hits the chord changes (the few that there are), and seems to expect the CD to succeed on sheer will alone. There is NO WAY that any of these songs were pre-written before they entered the studio. There's just nothing going on! If this was truly an attempt to get back to their blues roots, they failed gigantically. ZZ Top's classic '70s blues-rock material was organic, down-to-earth, and fun to listen to. Rhythmeen is just a repetitive overmodulated mess of empty dreams.

I almost wonder if Billy was trying to invent a new form of music with this triumvirate of moribund, overdistorted, minimalist shouting albums. But try as I might to appreciate it, all I hear is the same formula over and over and over again - a verse where he either plays two chords or just kinda goes "flacka flacka flacka" against the strings while shouting all the words on one note, followed by an obvious chord-driven chorus. Then some solos. Nobody sounds like they're having any fun, and you wind up just feeling sorry for them. There is no true 'blues' mood here - it would be impossible to create one with this ridiculously over-the-top noise-guitar tone. So instead, it's just a bunch of "Wow! Neat guitar sounds! (pause) Oh. There's no actual riff?"

Just look at these descriptions I wrote down on my pad of paper while listening last night. And keep in mind that no two comments refer to the same song:

"Nice poppy opening note lick turns into dull two-chord 'blues' crap verse. Dumb chorus too. Christ! Why did they waste such a great opening riff on such a terrible song!?"

"Dull sluggish 'blues' riff"

"'Bad To The Bone' slowed down"

"Basic blues-rock crap"

"Tremeloed slidey bland. Two chords. Slow. Tedious."

"Two notes. More hookless 'blues' crap. Bridge has three notes - scintillating. A waste."

"Three lame macho chords build up to exciting one chord. Slow blues-rock shit."

"Two chords, vomitous vox, a few notes. Boring! Includes weak ripoff of the 'nice poppy opening note lick' wasted earlier on the album. Boo!!!!"

God, you know what would rule? To write in cursive right now. Sure, typing has its place, but writing in cursive is the Word Processor of the Gods. I admit I'm not the greatest at it. People will often point fun and poke at me, expelling vocal cruelties like "You have the worst handwriting in the Universe," but they're full of shit because they've never even BEEN to the end of the Universe and I guarantee you that somewhere out there, 600 trillion light years from Earth, there's a bacterium that can barely lift a pen, let alone scrawl messy tiny smudged insults to the written language all over creation like I do.

So let's end the review with a riddle, like people enjoy:

Q. What's the difference between Tres Hombres and Rhythmeen?

A. One of them is full of great songs; the other is packaged with a bunch of mutilated DONGS!

That made you laugh so cheerfully, here's another for your long trip back to the Internet:

Q. Why did Rhythmeen cross the street?

A. Because a sulfuric acid truck had collided with a van full of skunks and a blimp full of poop, and everyone involved was complaining about the disgusting stench wafting from the CD!

See? You can't slow down rock and roll (jokes). Here's one last one, the best yet:

Q. How many copies of Rhythmeen does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. It depends on how far away the light fixture is from the toilet you'll be throwing all the copies into!

I hate this album.

Reader Comments

I'm surprised you didn't mention "Vincent Price Blues," which has to be one of the worst songs in the ZZ Top catalog. And it goes on for so long, too! Ugh.

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XXX - RCA 1999
Rating = 3

It's always a good idea to start and end your CD with the two worst songs on it. That way, even the people who bother sitting through the whole disc will never get the urge to listen to it again! You see, I play everything in life by golf rules.

However, if you find the stamina to continue listening past the almost anti-song opener "Poke Chop Sandwich," you may just find some of the quirkiest ZZ Top material in years (in between all the two-chord blues shouting horseshit that sounds just like the last two albums). Back again with the most ridiculously overprocessed, overdistorted fuzz barrage guitar in history, Billy Gibb is joined in his crusade of sludge-blues-rock by the now FUZZ-bassist Dusty Bill and now-funk/hip-hop-influenced drummer Frank Bears - yet NO BILL HAM! For the first time in their lives, they've got NO BILL HAM! As a result, though the two events have nothing to do with each other, ZZ Top only hits metaphorical home runs a couple of times (melodic multi-vocaled blues "Made Into A Movie" and wonderfully catchy pip-pop "Beatbox"), but interesting ideas are hidden all over the place, including:

- "Dreadmonboogaloo," which combines a Heroine Sheiks-esque 'thrift store organ' solo with an electronic drumbeat, a great fuzzy blues-rock lick and samples from an old television show - the result isn't brilliant per se, but it's at least cute and different!

- "Crucifixx-A-Flatt," whose odd quasi-riff appears to have been created by artificial, overmodulated harmonic tones

- "36-22-36," a truly rotten song that nevertheless includes a clever 'harmonica-locked-in-infinite-delay' gimmick buried under the verse vocals

- "Trippin'," a horrifyingly rancid piece of tuneless fucking garbage that for some reason includes a neat-to-the-ear echoey/delay octave-leap high note thingy at the end of each lousy chorus

- "Sinpusher," a live version of "Pincushion" performed with an entirely new set of lyrics. What the Hell would have inspired them to do this pointless exercise? Also, didn't the song originally have a chord sequence?

So you see, even though ZZ Top's 30th anniversary CD was one of the most godawful releases of their entire career (especially the four live tracks at the end, which rival Fandango!'s for the title of "Least 'Go Anywhere' Live Performances On Record"), it at least showed them experimenting and having fun again -- an attitude that would come to rewarding fruition on their completely ignored comeback album a few years later.

On an unrelated note, I was singing America's "Sandman" in the shower this morning (although I changed the title character to "Hen Man" to reflect my fondness for my dog Henry) and realized, "Hey! These lyrics suck!" I'm not saying I'm the first person to have noticed this phenomenon, but I'm probably the only one to have bothered taking note of it in the past three decades. From what I can tell, the title character is meant to refer to Death, specifically brought about through war (as far as I can tell). But let's actually examine the chorus:

"I understand
You've been running from the man
Who goes by the name
of the Sandman"

Now see, we're only halfway through the chorus and already he's rhymed "man" with "Man." I know the second appearance was intended as part of a proper name, but it's still essentially the same word. Let's continue:

"He flies the sky
Like an eagle in the eye
Of a hurricane
that's abandoned"

I'm willing to accept the notion of Death flying through the sky in search of the damned; what I'm not willing to accept is that not a single member of this band could think of a better rhyme for "Sandman" than "abandoned." Not to belabor the point, but WHAT THE FUCK IS 'A HURRICANE THAT'S ABANDONED'!? How does one abandon a hurricane? Can I do that? If I get bored with one, just toss it by the side of the road and leave it there?

And don't even mention "A Horse With No Name." The final word on that subject was made by The Loud Family when they named their 1992 CD Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things.

Also, you know how every once in a while you're running a record review web site and you get an email from some asshole screaming at you (in text form) for not liking Agent Orange or Gram Parsons enough, and they ALWAYS toss out this classic insult: "You don't get it, because YOU WEREN'T THERE."? After a full decade of receiving variations on this argument over and over again, I finally thought of a 'snappy comeback':

"If you had to 'be there' to get Gram Parsons, his music isn't terribly timeless, is it? I guess he'll be completely forgotten once your generation dies off? Hey, it's your theory!"

I proudly used this obnoxious counter-argument on a guy a couple months ago, bcc'ing a couple of friends to let them know I GOT me one! Zinger! Unfortunately, the guy responded by agreeing with me and expressing regret that nobody will remember Gram Parsons 20 years from now. He went on to tell me that he's a big fan of my site and he hopes I'm doing well.

Sigh. Way to take all the fun out of coming up with a zinger.

Reader Comments

Re: America's "Sandman". See, I think maybe they just had to make the grammar obtrusive for the sake of rhyme and it's actually the *eagle* that's been abandoned, which I guess is a little more plausible. Like his parents left the nest when he was but a little eaglet and never came back, and now he's destined to fly around in the eyes of hurricanes for some reason. And that is my comment on the grammy-award-winning ZZ Top album Aligator Lizards In The Air: ZZ Top Play The America Songbook.

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Mescalero - RCA 2003
Rating = 7

I slept for 15 and a half hours last night, woke up weighing four pounds less than when I went to sleep, have skipped my past three meals, have skipped dinner two of the last three nights following exhausting Tae Kwon Do classes -- I'm only mentioning this so you can get some idea of where my head is at right now (lost somewhere in the ether) and thus why the following review is going to be rushed, boring and terrible.

As Billy Gibbons once told Guitar Player magazine, "You’ve got the Mescalero Apache Indians, who were so bad that they were relegated to living miles from any regular Apaches. Then you have mescal, which is tequila’s lonely stepchild with the worm in the bottom. And finally, mescaline, which is the third cousin to peyote." The result is Eliminator. On this album, Chuck Berry collected some of his favorite footage of

Mescalero is ZZ Top having fun again. Having fun, experimenting, letting loose, bringing in new instruments, not taking anything seriously, not trying to be "blues-rock legends," and having a heck of a lot of fun with production tricks and tight arrangements. It's also the most diverse record - BY FAR - that they've ever done. Even the songs that don't have awesome riffs are super-fun to listen to because of all the jibs and jubbers they do. And the album is LOUD MY FUCKING GOD IS IT LOUD. By far the loudest mix the band has ever used, with distorted bass, loud fuzzed out guitar (shockingly) and Frank Beard playing some of the most interesting and personality-filled drumbreaks and rhythms of his entire career. "Personality" - that's a good word to describe the whole album, actually. Nobody is pretending that at this point in their career, ZZ Top is at the top of its songwriting game. But it doesn't matter, because (a) there are enough good melodies on here to prevent you from thinking, "Hey! They're just coasting by on production tricks!" and (b) this is the most fun they have ever been on album. Let me be much more specific now, since I'm kinda making this sound like a "Weird Al" Yankovic album so far.

See, the idea of ZZ Top releasing a 16-song CD (17 if you count the bonus track) after the grim noir of XXtinX, Rhythmsteenk amd Stinktennstink seems like a horrible one, if you just sit there and dwell on it for a while. But, in a magic twist of fate, they've gone out of their way to make EVERY SONG SOUND DIFFERENT FROM THE ONE PRECEDING IT. Yes, they're all loud and fuzzed out, and sure plenty of them only have a few basic choogle chords, but it's what they *DO* with them and around them and among them that makes Mescalero such a welcome treat for all the long-time fans who've been waiting ages for their wit and smartitude to return. Only because I feel that this album DESERVES such treatment (and that you need some illustration of just what in Hell I'm talking about), I'm going to do a track-by-track review. But actually READ it this time, because every single song has a quirk or two that separates it from the others. None of these descriptions are going to be "Catchy fuzz rocker" and that's it:

- "Mescalero," the title track: WONDERFUL! Features loud fuzzed-out guitar, insanely distorted bass.... plus SPANISH LYRICS and MARIMBAS! It even has a marimba solo! As Billy Gibbons once told Guitar Player magazine, "That was this father and son team who played in a little Mexican restaurant across the street from the studio. The son worked the bass side of the instrument, and the dad played the melodies. The first time we saw them, we just made a few song requests and left some tip money in the jar. A few days later, though, I was calling the restaurant manager to see if I could get them to play on 'Mescalero'—which we had pretty much wrapped up at that point.... I did finally get in contact with them, but neither one spoke any English, and my Spanish is rudimentary at best. Through a bunch of hand gestures, and some help from a translation dictionary, I managed to convey my interest in having them add their special touch to that song. And what they played really does color 'Mescalero' in that border style. The tail-out solo is the dad playing. He kind of looked at me and said, 'I’m taking this part, too!'"

- "Two Ways To Play" - I like to hear Billy and Dusty trade vocals. To be honest, I don't have anything to say about this one; I just felt it would be rude to leave it out.

- "Alley-Gator": SPANTACULAR! Basic bluesy rock stomp but with superheavy bass and an ACCORDIAN! It's driven by a G-D-N-EE-D-R ACCORDIAN! There's a Jungle Drum Break in the middle too!

- "Buck Nekkid": GREATASTIC! Basic rhythm choogler into silly bouncy Tex-Mex note chorus. Tex-Mex! You understand? Not blues-rock, for fucking once in their lives, but TEX-MEX!

- "Goin' So Good": HEARTLOVINGLY! A sad, sensitive pedal steel/steel guitar/piano ballad with the sickest, most grotesque vocals in the history of Mandom. As Billy Gibbons once told Guitar Player magazine, "Well, the engineers caught me on a day when I had a bad cold, and it was like, 'Hey fellas, I don’t know if I can get through this.' And they said, 'God, you sound like Louis Armstrong meets Ray Charles—get in there and sing!' It’s a very sad song. I’ve shed tears listening to that thing."

- "Me So Stupid": The entire (not very good hip-hoppy blooze) song is backed by a looped sample of Billy clearing his throat. FOR THE ENTIRE GODDAMNED SONG!!!!

- "Piece": Not a very good song, but listen to Dusty break out of macho character and almost cry as he (jokingly) utters, "I just want a piece!" during a break in the middle.

- "Punk Ass Boyfriend": Again, not a very good song, but the chorus is pop bliss heaven and Billy matches his guitar solo to the rhythm of Frank tapping on a glass bottle or somesuch! It even has a big rap break with everything distorted beyond Hellacious.

- "Stackin' Paper": LOVE THIS! Falsetto SOUL vocals! Fantastic vocal melody! It's TOTALLY '60s r'n'b/soul!

- "What Would You Do": FUN AS SHIM! A fuzzed-out uptempo COWBOY song! Country/western with hilariously processed/harmonized singing. Lovely, fun, traditional, full of excellent slide guitar, toe-tapping yet still FUZZED OUT AS SHIT!!!!

- "What It Is Kid": Shufflin' sleaze! This is the only song on the album credited to all three band members (Billy gets sole credit for most), presumably because of its funkyass beat and Cows-style up-and-down-the-neck bass hook. Billy sounds just like Redd Foxx in the chorus!

- "Que Lastima": GOOD GOD YES!!! A MEXICAN CORRIDO!!! Written by BILLY FUCKIN' GIBBONS!!!! Wonderful! Every fuckin' Mexican restaurant mariachi band in the world needs to learn this terrific song. I love it to peaces! It's just your basic Mexican corrido, but come on - Billy Gibbons wrote it!

- "Tramp": A cover of Otis & Carla's classic. Not as good as the original - and far, FAR too long at 5:12 - it nevertheless allows us to enjoy Billy's low spoken voice for the first time in decades.

- "Crunchy": RIDICULOUSLY ALL OVER THE PLACE! Mostly an instrumental built around a (German?) sample of somebody saying "Crunchy! Crunchy!" and Billy speaking a bit, compounded by uptempo boogie, hard rock chordage, an ORGAN, some cookin' hard rock during the solo, an interesting sick arpeggio run in the middle - just a confusing, runaround, fun wackbutt song!

- "Dusted": The first of only two songs on the record to unpleasantly resemble their other recent albums, this one is nevertheless highlighted by a preposterously stupid "Tang-a-twang-a-tang-a-tang-twang!" chant that the guys keep doing during the choruses.

- "Liquor": The second of only two songs on the record to unpleasantly resemble their other recent albums, this one has no hook, no gimmick and is terrible.

- HIDDEN BONUS TRACK: "As Time Goes By": Lovely pedal steel, but I hate both the song and the way it's sung so I'm not treating it as a bonus track and not factoring it into my final grade (it would likely bring the 7 down to a 6)

If I seem overly excited about an album that I only gave a low 7, I do apologize, but please understand that this is the first good album ZZ Top has released in EIGHTEEN YEARS. Also, remember how excited I was about El Loco? I gave that one the same grade! I just love it when bands aren't afraid to inject a bit more humor and personality into their work. Quirkiness, you know. And there's a TON of it on here. They use more ridiculous modern production tricks than the Melvins and Latin Playboys put together, every song features about a billion guitars playing with different tones, the rhythm section is tight as a belt without any synth pulse to strap it down, the energy is super-high, and the mix is awesomely full, clear and voluminous. In short, you'd have to be a stick-in-the-mud with a stick-up-your-ass to not get any enjoyment from this ZZ Top variety show.

Jesus, do you realize the semantic and philosophical conflicts that such a scenario would create? To be a stick with another stick shoved up your ass? It's not quite cannibalism, I guess, but surely the other stick wouldn't be able to BREATHE up there!

And what the hell are you doing with an ass anyway, stick?

Reader Comments

Talented underachievers, they share characteristics with Cheap Trick, the Cars and Zappa. Incapable of credible singing, they compensate with goofy lyrics; rarely able to write a full album's worth of material, they tinker endlessly with their production; although talented musically, they cater to their loyal audience with easy riffs and a theatrical stage presentation; most of all, they are crippled by a lack of emotional commitment. Their pride would probably get in the way, but ZZ Top would do well putting together a cover's project (overseen by an inspired producer) - the crazier, the better, just get some great songwriting behind their shtick.

This review is right on the money. Love the mix of fuzzy-crunchy blues rock and bleary-eyed tequila-fueled tex-mex. It's all so LOOSE, like a plate of overstuffed tamales. Is that marimbas or a xylophone on the title track? Either way, sounds great. Even the skeleton-in-the-desert cover art is part of the mood. A few too many songs, but this time I'm glad they didn't edit so I could sort out of my own favorites.

Talk about a mental hangover! Without a doubt the most over-rated pseudo-hillbilly corporate crap group ever recorded.

" Tramp": A cover of Otis & Carla's classic. Not as good as the original "

Not quite so. While Otis & Carla (and the band) did a hell of an expansion of this tune via a dramatic rewrite for two people that was killer, (despite being a pastiche of the rythm parts for I"MLOSIN YOU and a couple other sessions arrangements) the REAL original is a brilliantly sparse tough R&B guitar-driven thing by Lowel Fulson that sounds Just About Exactly Like This One! ZZ went back to the song's base and pretty much did little else but slow it the TEENIEST bit and turn the volume WAY the hell up. Much much fun ensues. "Stetson hat... Well Sometimes " indeed

Whoa, you liked this one didn't you. I did not. As one guy so aptly put it - talented underachievers. Their output from Afterburner on ranges from unfortunate to insulting. OK, so they're former MTV darlings who can rest on their laurels? This is an excuse for a ZZ-Top album. Mescalero is nearly as un-PC a song as Genesis' Illegal Alien was, what with its use of Spanglish sounding words in place of actual Spanish. I stayed away from ZZ-Top ever since they put out Recycler, an aptly titled album which they blatantly and unblinkingly plagerized themselves, by recycling (get it?) La Grange for the song Head's In Mississippi. I picked this one up on a whim because someone said they went back to basics for this one. No they didn't. They should just tour, play for longer than a fuckin hour, and treat their fans to that 'blues' they claim to love so well, and stop periodically ripping them off. I feel embarissed for them.

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Live From Texas - Eagle Rock 2008
Rating = 9

One of the things they don't teach you in med school is that very few "live" albums are fully "live." For instance, here are a just a few of the embarrassing "live" mishaps that were edited off of this CD before it hit America's record shelves:

- "Augghh! The wind machine blew my beard down my throat! I can't breathe!" (*dies*)
- "Augghh! Some guy in the front row pumped his fist and got it stuck in my beard!" (*lifts head, ripping fist off of audience member's arm and splashing AIDS blood all over the first three rows*)
- "Augghh! My beard's all tangled up in my guitar strings!" (*plays lousy guitar solo*)
- "Augghh! My beard wrapped itself around the mic stand and then plugged itself into an electric outlet!" (*dies*)

Yes, it's a hilarious day at the park when America's ZZ Top brings its ridiculous smelly beards out to play.

If you've never heard this live album and are wondering how in God's Sam Hill a 2008 ZZ Top album could earn a 9 out of 10. let me explain this phenomenon as succinctly as I can:

It doesn't include a single song written after 1985.

Yes, ZZ Top is apparently so aware of its declining artistic and commercial success that they didn't even bother playing anything off of the album they were touring, let alone its four predecessors! As such, you get nothing but monster hit after monster hit, all performed energetically and sung gruffly. (Truth be honest, they did play the hideous "Pin Cushion" at this concert, but it was left off the CD, as was -- unfortunately -- an awesome lengthy run-through of "Heard It On The X." You can find both on the DVD version of Live From Texas, along with an underwhelming cover of Hendrix's "Foxey Lady.")

4 Eliminator, 3 Tres Hombres, 2 each from Fandango!, Deguello and El Loco, and 1 each from Rio Grande Mud and Afterburner = Quality Live ZZentertainment. Some of the stage patter is fun and sleazy too -- particularly a bit about "pretty girls and jewelry" that Dusty and Billy engage in before "Pearl Necklace." Billy's low, gravelly voice might throw for a loop those who haven't heard the past few studio albums, but if you're familiar with his recent vocal stylings then you'll have no problem with them. And don't worry about Dusty - his voice hasn't changed in 40 years!

(Ditto for his pants! P.U. City!)

Reader Comments

Mr. Prindle,
Excellent and funny-as-hell review of this pretty good live album. Maybe they will finally get off of their azzes and make a decent studio album.
Did you hear that ZZ Top was (were?) going to put on a benefit seafood feast? Unfortunately, they couldn't get the crabs out of their beards.

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(And you and your wife grow beards and pour barbecue sauce on them)