ZZ Top

RCA, 1994

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to give a fresh view to things. Perhaps that was the reason that ZZ Top left their longtime record label, Warner Brothers, and signed with RCA.

Antenna, the first disc released on their new home, tried to branch the two worlds that Billy Gibbons and crew knew – namely, synthesized music that could top charts with their love of the blues. Did it work? Well, for a while, it did…

The album opens up strongly with “Pincushion,” a song which, admittedly, I wasn't a big fan of when it came out, but it has grown on me over the years. It again seems to catch Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard in a more lighthearted vein, which is where the lil' ol' band from Texas seems to be at their best.

Indeed, for the first half of the album, it starts to feel like ZZ Top can't do any wrong. Are the songs as good as what you'd find on Eliminator? No, but they are their own unique animals and enjoyable as is. Tracks like “World Of Swirl,” “Girl In A T-Shirt,” and “Fuzzbox Voodoo” all dare to declare that ZZ Top is back, on their own terms, and they demand you to listen.

It is also stated early on that – well, guess we can't call them synthesizers anymore – but electronic instrumentation is part of their repertoire and isn't going anywhere. The changes in tone to Beard's drum kit are the most obvious examples of this. While I can't say I totally like it, it's at least not as offensive as what I heard on Afterburner.

And then, the bottom falls out. Starting with “Antenna Head,” Antenna quickly delves into filler material. While it's not terrible, it just doesn't equal the first half of the album by a long shot. Tracks like “Cherry Red,” “PCH” and “Deal Goin' Down” just pale in comparison…and, the less said about the “safe sex” song “Cover Your Rig,” the better.

Make no mistake, there is plenty on Antenna to be excited about…if only that had been able to be parlayed into a whole album. Still, like its predecessor, it is another step back in the right direction for ZZ Top, and it isn't entirely a waste of time.

I am, by the way, aware of my comments about Antenna that I made in reviews of Rhythmeen and XXX. Chances are, had I reviewed this back in 1997 or 1999, I would have stuck to those viewpoints. Time does change some things, I guess.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.