We gave it a B+
Most bands wouldn’t want to point out that they’re offering you variations on their same old thing, but on Recycler, ZZ Top makes a virtue of truth-in-packaging. The album takes old but sturdy blues licks that the band had been steadily phasing out of its ’80s act and recycles them as crisp pop-rock hooks. The result is gratifying: the group’s most low-down, souped-up album ever.
To be sure, the love-me-baby-I’m-a-bluesman clichés can be tiresome (”Tell It,” ”Penthouse Eyes”). But cuts such as ”Concrete and Steel” and ”Decision or Collision” are ferocious fun, and the sexy stuff is both well-made and good- natured. ”Burger Man” — ”serving love any way you like it” — carries out its fast-sex-as-fast-food metaphor with the consistency of an English professor; ”Give It Up” is the only blues-rock tune I know in which a desperate macho man asks his partner for tips on how to, um, please her. It’s the 2-Beard Crew in top form.
Before this album’s fresh show of strength, the group’s videos had turned it into a joke — three shaggy middle-agers grinding out grungy boogie surrounded by wiggling women. Recycler reminds us that ZZ Top is ”that little ol’ band from Texas,” a canny synthesizer of rock, blues, Tex-Mex, and pop. To revive these regionialists’ best old motto: They’re bad, they’re nationwide. B+