ZZ Top

Recycler

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The continuation of Eliminator's synthesized blues boogie made sense on Afterburner, since it arrived two years after its predecessor. ZZ Top's choice to pursue that direction on Recycler is puzzling, since a full five years separates this from Afterburner. It's not just that they continue to follow this path; it's that they embalm it, creating a record that may be marginally ballsier than its predecessor, but lacking the sense of goofy fun and warped ambition that made Afterburner fascinating. Here, there's just a steady, relentless beat (Frank Beard is still chained to the sequencer, as he has been for a decade), topped off by processed guitars turning out licks that fall short of being true riffs. Put it this way, apart from "Doubleback," a continuation of the arena pop of "Stages," the other number that really works here is "My Head's in Mississippi," the closest they'd come to the greasy boogie of "La Grange" since Degüello. When it arrives halfway through Recycler, it not only sounds refreshing; it puts the rest of the album in perspective, showing how tired the once-bracing synth-blooze-boogie has become. And the worst thing about it all, it doesn't seem like the band realizes how uncomfortably ironic the title of Recycler is.

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