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ZZ Top goes new wave with some unexpected results. This would be classic except for one little thing...
on December 21, 2011
Whoever said ZZ Top doesn't like to experiment needs to check out this album. First off, there's very little of the distortion and bite of earlier releases. New Wave was prominent at this point, and ZZ Top fully embraced the genre on 1981's El Loco. The Gibson dirt of earlier releases are replaced with a Fender sheen (This also was the first album where they were playing separated from each other in different booths, where as earlier releases had them all in the same room). The band was also experimenting with more robotic drum beats and chorus effects on guitar/vocals. Just listen to something like Tube Snake Boogie or Pearl Necklace and you'll hear the change from the past release.
Other than that, it's the same old ingredients. Texas-fried boogie done in a way that the Top could only cook it. This album contains some of their best work: The slow-burning It's So Hard and I Wanna Drive You Home, the party fun of Groovy Little Hippie Pad & Party On The Patio, and the nastiness of Tube Snake Boogie, Pearl Necklace, and one of my favorites, Ten Foot Pole.
However, not every experiment works. Leila has to be one of the worst songs the band have ever penned, a boring adult contemporary song that sounds like it could've fit on Days Of Our Lives. And that pedal steel is just awful. Also, what the hell were they thinking with Heaven, Hell Or Houston? Disco-sci fi? I dunno about that one. Too many drugs.
This marks the end of total consistency for ZZ Top. It had to happen, 6 great albums in a row isn't too bad though. After this marks the beginning of the "commercial" ZZ Top, which, isn't that bad, but it was never the same.