Since ZZ Top’s last album, La Futura, in 2012 frontman Billy Gibbons has released three – with the third and most recent one Hardware coming out last month. This offering is a delightful slab of dirty, blues influenced rock n roll recorded in the Californian desert – it is not much of a deviation from his day job but it is fresh and crackles with life. The heavy blues of ‘More-More-More’ especially, it is compact, minimalist but packs one hell of a distorted punch.
This 12 track, 37 minute album sticks to this taut, compact and punchy ethos – not a second is wasted. ‘My Lucky Card’ starts things off in typical fashion, with a slinky, rolling riff and the cavernous sounds of Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses) on the drums – who also helped pen and produce the record. Single ‘West Coast Junkie’ is an upbeat slab of boogie rock that name checks Billy’s favourite subjects – cars, girls, weed and the south – and will get happily stuck in your head, all in under three minutes. Hooks galore in the catchy ‘I Was a Highway’, a tale about failing to hit it off with a lass with the witty lyric “you’d think I was a highway the way she hit the road”.
It’s not all blues, booze and birds, soulful ballad ‘Vagabond’ sees B.F.G reflecting on life as a musician – an uncharacteristically sentimental track and definitely an album highlight. There is a cover of tex mex band Texas Tornados’ ‘Hey Baby, Que Paso’, which is morphed into a jolly, latin influenced rocker. You can hear the influence of their desert surrounds in ‘Spanish Fly’ – a track so sultry and atmospheric you can almost see the heat haze coming off it. As is the case in ‘Desert High’, a sparse and spoken word track with a heavy atmosphere.
Hardware is B.F.G’s best solo album, a familiar yet fresh shot of down n’ dirty, blues fuelled rock n roll with hooks, soul and swagger aplenty.