ZZ Top


Tracks: 10, total time: 37:36, year: 1985, genre: Classic Rock

Afterburner (Japanese Pressing)
1985 Warner Bros. Records, Inc.

Originally Released 1985
CD Edition Released 1985

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Well, if you just had your biggest hit ever, you'd probably try to replicate it, too. And if you were praisedfor being visionary because you played all your blues grooves to a slightly sequenced beat, you'd probably be tempted to not just continue in that direction, but to tighten the sequencer and graft on synthesizers, since it'll all signal how futuristic you are. While you're at it, you might visualize how space age this all is by turning your signature car into a space shuttle. If you look at things that way, then Afterburner, ZZ Top's follow-up to their blockbuster Eliminator, makes sense -- they're just giving the people more of what they want. Problem is, no matter how much you dress ZZ Top up, they're still ZZ Top. Sometimes they can trick you into thinking they're a little flashier than usual, but they're still a lil' ol' blues band from Texas, kicking out blues-rockers. And blues-rock just doesn't kick when it's synthesized, even if ZZ Top's grooves always bordered on robotic. So, Afterburner, their most synthetic album, will not please most ZZ Top fans, even if it did go platinumseveral time over and reached number four. That's all just a sign of the times, when even hard rock bands had to sound as slick as synth pop, complete with clanging DX-7s and cavernous drums. As an artifact of that time, Afterburner is pretty good -- never has a hard rock album sounded so artificial, nor has a nominal blues-rock album sounded so devoid of blues. Apart from the chugging "Sleeping Bag," not even the singles sound like ZZ Top (though "Dipping Low (In the Lap of Luxury" is a blatant "Gimme All Your Lovin'" rewrite): the terrific post-new wave rocker "Stages" is the poppiest thing they ever cut, the ballad "Rough Boy" is far removed from slow blues, and the full-fledged synth dance of "Velcro Fly" is a true mind-bender. All this means that Afterburner is merely a product of its time -- the only record ZZ Top could have made at the time, but it hardly exists out of that time. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Monster Sequel, February 19, 2007
Reviewer: therosen "therosen" (New York, NY United States)
Afterburner, the sequel to ZZ Top's pop-breakout Eliminator, is a solid album in it's own right. It combines ZZ-Topish humor (Woke up with Wood), instant additions to ZZ's classic lists (Planet of Women & Sleeping Bag), songs that take a while to grow on you (Rough Boy) and even a failed attempt to start a dance craze (the Velcro Fly).

It's not the bluesiest they have, not the poppest, and certainly not the best, but it's still a great album.

An 80s Classic That Hasn't Aged Well, October 22, 2004
Reviewer: Andre LeBlanc (North Dakota)
I was in junior high when this album came out, and I played my cassette copy to death back then. I thought the song "Stages" was the coolest song I had ever heard. I recently bought the CD after not listening to the album in over 10 years. As much as I loved it in 1985, the music has not aged well at all. The heavy synthesized sound that was great back then soundsuninteresting and bland today. However, the CD does bring back a lot of memories. If you grew up during the 80s and want to return to those days (at least in spirit), go ahead and pick this up. Otherwise, don't bother.

Out of this World, March 29, 2003
Reviewer: Jerry Fry (Freeman, MO USA)
Now Eliminators are flying into outer space. That's cool but what happened? ZZ Top became more marketable in the '80s and raked in a lot of jack. The space rock boogie was a good gimmick. It sold well, these guys threw away their razors and dipped low in the lap of luxury. But this is exactly the kind of "Stages" a band goes through. No longer a hungry band and it sounds like it. "Rough Boy" got played constantly and the video wasn't bad but this isn't the ZZ Top I like to remember. Somehow it seemed like this wasn't a bad direction for them to go. But that's where it ended. The following album I believe was "Recycler" and that's pretty much what I did with it.

The third star is for having the [courage] to make this album., July 14, 2002
Reviewer: Erik K (Albuquerque, NM.)
In the discography of ZZ Top, this is where things got truly wierd. ZZ Top may not be considered one of the top groundbreaking rock and roll acts in a historical sense, but Billy Gibbons IS considered one of the great rock and roll guitarists. This album is where his playing went from it's bluesy best to his bland-est. He apparently stopped thinking of openTexas plains and empty highways and put himself on the creative equivalent of an MTV space shuttle launchpad. There IS still an obvious connection here, re; "Houston we have reached ZZ orbit" or something to that effect, especially considering the success of Eliminator (remember, in the Reagan era, the space shuttle, MTV and rap music were new..). But the music of Afterburner, although entertaining, is mostly a lamentable soft-core foray into dance/techno style electronic rhythms and hip/hoppystuff (hip/hoppy..was he any relation to Trigger?). The hard-core, don't [care] WHAT yall' think individualism of past ZZ releases is watered down so much that the only people ZZ [angered] with this album were their fan base. For crying out loud, Frank Beard, one of the best drummers in Rock and Roll, was largely replaced by digital drum machines to make this album. Now, I am a believer in artistic freedom, and in creative pursuits change is sometimes neccessary and a healthy thing. But when theresult is something as limpid as "Velcro Fly", one has to wonder.

The source of ZZ Top's appeal was never any secret to the beer drinkers and hell raisers who worshiped them the instant the band began to boogie fifteen yearsago. Since then there have been classic stunts (the 1976 tour featuring livestock and snakes) and classic licks ("Tush" and "LaGrange"). But it took their last (and ninth) album, Eliminator, to turn the li'l' ol' trio from Texas into everybody's guilty pleasure.

Their new LP, Afterburner, has enough oomph, wacky rhythms and super guitar to satisfy at least half of the more than 5 million customers who bought Eliminator. But while ZZ's hot rod can make this trip, it doesn't ride really well on Afterburner's Autobabn.

Top Top Billy Gibbons has sacrificed the chemistry -- and, tragically, the heart -- of the band to technology. The synthesizers and drum machines that helped modernize a Cream-vintage power trio and subtly reinforced Eliminator's tracks have now apparently replaced bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. Gibbons' electronic toys may give him few arguments, note-for-note perfection and tremendous flexibility (for example, in reshuffling ZZ's traditional beat intoradical syncopations like the wild intro to "Sleeping Bag"). But this is music that should feel as if it's being made by men, not machines.

Afterburner's fake drums sound thin, and the keyboards are just plain tacky. They frequently overwhelm material that is otherwise rather nice. "Rough Boy" (only the second ballad ZZ has ever recorded), swollen with inarticulate longing, might be more moving with a stripped-down arrangement. The same goes for "Stages," a more upbeat love song that's also adeparture from ZZ's typically goofy lyrics and raunchy humor. Coming from a single man who's played one-night stands since his teens, "Stages, keep on changing/Stages, rearranging love" is a knowing assessment of romance on the run. Not only would the yucky synthesizers be better off piped into a shopping mall (or onto a Journey album), but Gibbons' bluesworn voice is so mechanically treated that its emotional impact is deadened.

He doesn't suffer as badly as Dusty Hill, though. One of the highlights of ZZ concerts is the way Gibbons and Hill almost finish one another's sentences; here Gibbons has kept all of the leads to himself. Hill, a great rave-and-shouter in the Little Richard tradition, makes two cameo appearances, on "Delirious"and "Can't Stop Rockin'." But he sounds distant and dispirited -- as if Randy Bachman had telephoned in his vocals for him.

Amid all this machine-made music, "Velcro Fly" is strikingly alive. Not only does Gibbons' manic buzz constantly remind you of why he entered the guitar players' pantheon eons ago, but this is the rate cut where you hear something like the gut thump of a real bass, while the totally demented instrumental break sounds like Prince taking "My Sharona" and bouncing it off the walls. The lyrics may be a little too out there (they're in the same gonzo mode as "Cheap Sunglasses" and "TV Dinners") to make this a bid for the singles charts, however.

The chuggy tempo and high, happy harmonies of "Dipping Low" and "I Got the Message" are directly patterned on "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man." "Can't Stop Rockin'" is an obvious set closer or encore, but it's a little too ordinary ("I can't stop rockin' baby, 'til I lose my mind") for a band of this stature to include on a studio album now. Less ordinary is "Woke Up with Wood," perhaps the most incendiary rocker on Afterburner. Unfortunately, it's yet another addition to the list of dirty jokes that have long been the band's stock in trade. ZZ's catalog probably describes as many sex acts ("Tube Snake Boogie," "I Got the Six," "Pearl Necklace") as Masters and Johnson's. But where early songs like "Tush" and "LaGrange" were rites of passage, and "Pearl Necklace" might possibly be interpreted as an invitation to a shopping spree, "Woke Up with Wood" is just silly. Could it be time for ZZ Top to grow up?

Gibbons may have moved into the Eighties with all of the latest gimmicks and equipment, but his consciousness is stuck in the Dark Ages. "Planet of Women" will undoubtedly appeal to boys of all ages, and lines like "Send a straitjacket, something in a shade of gray" are good for a few giggles. But what's really so funny about a narrator who complains he can't make it with every woman he sees and confesses he can't distinguish between a "diamond" of a woman and a "hole in the ground"?

The band has other questions to consider. How are they going to perform this material? Afterburner uses so many synthesizers they may have to relyeven more heavily on prerecorded tapes than they did on the Eliminator tour. Maybe the plan is to turn into cartoons we'll see only on video and, word has it, film. And if Gibbons is so itchy to stretch beyond the trio format and the technical limitations of his partners, why doesn't he go solo? Then again, Afterburner may simply represent a transitional phase in this gifted eccentric's development as well as a tricky period in ZZ Top's continuing evolution from bell-bottom-blues band to sharp-dressed pop machine. (RS 462 - Dec 5, 1985) -- DEBORAH FROST YEAR: 1985

1.4:07    Sleeping Bag
2.3:35    Stages
3.3:50    Woke Up With Wood
4.4:53    Rough Boy
5.3:05    Can't Stop Rockin'
6.4:07    Planet Of Women
7.3:31    I Got The Message
8.3:33    Velcro Fly
9.3:15    Dipping Low (In The Lap Of Luxury)
10.3:40    Delirious

Category: newage - Discid: 8f08ce0a

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