Today ZZ Top is releasing their 15th studio album and first in nine years, LA FUTURA. By all accounts is it much-anticipated. But I'm going to out myself here and now: I do not get why people love ZZ Top. If you are one of those people, can you explain it to me like I'm five years old?
Chances are you are one of those people. According to various online sources, the band has sold more than 50 million albums in their 43 years together. They're in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the mid-1980s pretty much every dude I knew wanted to be just like them. One of their most-famous songs was riffed on in a pantyhose commercial, for the love of Marvin Zindler.
And their popularity is not just a Texan thing. A few years ago I was visiting my sister in Prague and doing some sightseeing. I met a very nice older man who was walking his dog. He asked me where I was from and I said Texas. His face immediately lit up and he said "Zed Zed Top!"
Yes, dude, Zed Zed Top. That is what our fine state is exporting to former Communist nations. (It's better than the people in Korea who would respond to the Texas question by saying "George Bush" and making a sour face.) I played along because I didn't have the heart to tell him I think the band is the worst kind of schlock-rock around.
I've heard from various sources that Mr. Billy Gibbons is a perfectly nice guy, hanging out at local bars, playing benefit concerts with his bandmates. Dear God, I hope he's not actually reading this. Mr Gibbons (and Mr. Hill and Mr. Beard and any ZZ Top assistants who have Google alerts set up for the band name), I apologize in advance, but I just don't like your music. But hey, there's no accounting for taste.
Perhaps it's because I wasn't raised in Houston? But honestly, that should't matter, because when I was a baby music-lover in Oklahoma, my dad and uncle were die-hard Tres Hombres fans, playing covers of the band's biggest hits in late-night garage jam session, and posing for snapshot photos a la the choreography in the "Legs" video. My dad probably still has his Flying V.
I've read that the band has incorporated punk and new wave influences into some of their songs. Where is this? I can't seen to find it past the hair, furry guitars and mariachi suits.
The band's most-quoted lyrics are either the skeevy, snarling "a how how how" or have something to do with fellatio or another sex act. Maybe that's the rub (pun totally intended). I mean, I actually pretty much love fucked-up grungy blues*, but it's the lyrics that annoy me most.
It's like they were written by some hormonal 15-year-old boy. And I'm all for the working-man blue-collar ethos in theory, but I am neither a blue collar working man nor a 15-year-old pubescent boy. I am, however, mostly a fan of sharp-dressed men.
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*How much hate mail do you think I will get for also admitting that I can't stand Stevie Ray Vaughan? Sorry, Dad. It's just that all I can think about when I hear his music is that band Blues Hammer from the movie Ghost World. "If you like authentic blues, you really gotta check out Blues Hammer. They're so great!"
Maybe I'm not their target audience? Or perhaps I've only heard the "radio hits" and haven't been exposed to the good stuff deep cuts. If that's the case, I'm willing to be re-educated. Tell me what there is to love about ZZ Top.