ZZ Top

Warner Brothers, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Imagine you're a member of ZZ Top for a moment. You've plugged along for over a decade and finally hit the superstar level with your album Eliminator. You then follow it up two years later with Afterburner, a disc which overrelied on synthesizers and was much weaker in terms of songwriting. What do you do to regain your equilibrium?

First, you take a few years off – good idea. Re-tool your musical ideas, rejuvenate your spirits. Then, come back with an album that should blow the doors off of the Eliminator.

Well…in the case of Recycler, one out of two ain't bad. The five-year difference between the two albums does show Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard relying less obviously on synthesizers or computerized instrumentation (though I don't doubt it's still there somewhere). And while the songwriting has improved over what they put out on Afterburner, the album is nowhere as engaging as some of their earlier works were, which eventually leaves the listener confused as to just what they heard.

Oh, sure, things kick off great with “Concrete And Steel,” which does suggest a return to form for the band. And while this isn't as strong of a track as anything which can be found on Eliminator, it does best anything found on Afterburner, so it is definitely a step in the right direction.

The problem is, the rest of the album falls into the same trap – namely, each song one listens to sounds exactly like the one you just finished. The lack of variety in the music is what eventually is the downfall of this disc; after a while, you will find yourself wondering whether you just finished listening to “Penthouse Eyes,” “2000 Blues,” or “Burger Man,” and you'll soon realize that it really doesn't matter.

To the band's credit, the overbearing synthesizers are gone…and, yes, they are being used more subtly, but at least it's now a better fit musically for ZZ Top. Granted, the days where you knew it was a three-piece band with one guitarist are over, so more simplistic songs such as “Tush” most likely would not be written. Sonically, it is the correct move they made…now only if they had done something about the songwriting.

Recycler, unfortunately, proves to be an apropos name for this effort, as it tries to duplicate the sound and feel of a previous success and clone it. Is the end result unpleasant? Absolutely not…but it's also not groundbreaking or anything which stands out as being far more deserving of one's attention.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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