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Where's the blues?

Afterburner
Afterburner
By ZZ Top

Warner Bros.: 1985


This review first appeared in the November 6, 1985 issue of The Daily Aztec.

Three years ago, "Eliminator," with the dreadful "Gimme All Your Lovin'," showed that the Little Ol' Band from Texas was straying further and further from its musical roots in the blues. The band's latest effort, "Afterburner," continues this sorry trend.

On this album, the trio sounds like any number of bands. "Sleeping Bag" reminds of David Bowie; "Stages" is reminiscent of Loverboy; and "I Got the Message" could pass for Journey. Only rarely do they sound like ZZ Top.

Whatever happened to tunes like "Move Me On Down the Line," "La Grange," "Tush," "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers"?

Here, on nearly every song, the guitars and bass are run through effects boards to give them a synthesizer-like sound, and the beat comes from a box, too. Sad.

The only song on the album worth its weight in Tex-Mex food (like the meal featured on the photo on the inside of "Tres Hombres") is "Can't Stop Rockin'." Frank "Rube" Beard sets down the thumping drum lines the band used to be famous for, and Billy Gibbons finally unplugs his guitar from the effects machines. The band shows they're capable of still playing great blues-rock a la Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The only question is will they ever return to doing it on a regular basis?