La Futura

ZZ Top

Republic, 2012

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Say this much about ZZ Top: they’re not content being seen as an “oldies” band, expected to only tour and crank out the same songs they’ve been playing for decades.

Their record sales might not match what they were pulling down in the ’80s, and their output slowed to an absolute crawl as the years passed, but the trio of guitarist/lead vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard kept on cranking out new material. Some of it was good; other releases were forgettable.

La Futura, the 2012 release from ZZ Top, not only now serves as the final album released prior to Hill’s death in 2021, but was the first studio effort from the “lil’ ol’ band from Texas” in nearly a decade. While it picks up where their previous effort Mescalero left off, it doesn’t quite capture the same essence as its predecessor had.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let’s get the biggest complaint out of the way first: 10 songs and just under 40 minutes’ worth of music after waiting for nine years between albums? The future feels far, far too short.

Then again, seeing that the tracks contained therein don’t necessarily have the staying power that some of ZZ Top’s earlier works have had over the years, maybe it turned out to be a good thing that the album wasn’t padded with half-processed filler material. For every “Flyin’ High”—arguably the best track on this collection—there are songs that, once the last note fades out, will leave the listener’s collective conscience, such as “Heartache In Blue” and “Big Shiny Nine.”

La Futura isn’t the easiest disc to get into; truth be told, the last time I listened to this one a few years ago, I hated it. But I guess I could have said the same thing about Mescalero, a disc that I had to warm up to—and, when I listened to this one using headphones, I found myself becoming more accustomed to the disc.

Tracks like “Consumption,” “It’s Too Easy Manana” and “Flyin’ High” all suggest that ZZ Top still have gas in the tank, and the classic car is still running—even if there are signs of rust appearing on the bodywork. But there is just an “X” factor missing from this one that keeps it from going from a “good” album to a “great” one—and, if you think about it, that’s something that ZZ Top has been chasing almost their entire career. Perhaps if Hill’s vocals had been more utilized, that would have been just enough to push this one over the precipice—he does seem woefully underutilized on this disc. And, let’s be honest, Gibbons’s vocals sound more strained than ever.

Whatever the case, La Futura does capture the raw grittiness of early ZZ Top while trying to push the sound into the modern day. Had there been more exciting songwriting and performances captured on this one, it could have been a disc that could have been mentioned in the same breath as Tres Hombres or Eliminator. Unfortunately, it falls short of that goal.

Rating: C+

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