Tuesday, July 6, 2010

396. Eliminator. The beards are back in town.

Album: Eliminator.
Artist: ZZ Top
Genre: Rock.
Year: 1983

1. Gimme All Your Lovin'
2. Got Me Under Pressure
3. Sharp Dressed Man
4. I Need You Tonight
5. I Got the Six
6. Legs
7. Thug
8. TV Dinners
9. Dirty Dog
10. If I Could Only Flag Her Down
11. Bad Girl

The careers of ZZ Top and Van Halen have followed fairly similar trajectories...

In the seventies both bands were Rock God's churning out guitar-based hits that you'll find played on classic rock radio today. Boys loved them and air-guitarists still do today. Ugly Groupies. Beer.

In the eighties both bands embraced MTV, synthesizers and lightened their tone. Mainstream success followed. Albums walked off the shelves. Stadiums filled. Attractive Groupies. Cocaine.

In the nineties both bands were brutally slaughtered by grunge and left bloody by the side of highways they seemed to idolize. Albums failed to chart. Stadiums became smaller and fans older. Audience waited patiently for their old stuff and offered collected groans when they said "Here's a song from our latest album". Aging groupies. Alcohol to excess.

In the noughties both bands became the punchlines to oft-repeated jokes. Van Halen for their constantly changing lead singers and ZZ Top for their beards. New Albums were completely ignored by the public who were surprised to find they were still around. Ticket sales were eclipsed by their own tribute acts who played only the old stuff and could do it without forgetting the words. Prostitutes. Viagra.

Eliminator marks the highpoint of ZZ Top's career. It's their biggest selling album and spawned their biggest selling singles. It also helped to cement their image thanks to the iconic video clips which still get played on MTV today. Eliminator's three big radio hits (Sharp dressed man, Legs and Got me Under pressure) were a trilogy of themed video clips which all featured a similar narrative. In every clip an All-American Boy was helped out by a trio of former Playboy models called The Eliminator girls. These huge-haired young ladies would arrive in the Eliminator Car and proceed to pose in tight clothing. Watching over these proceedings like some hirsute, ethereal guardian angels were the members of ZZ top who materialize occasionally to give encouragement and perform a foolish dance move before fading away to give the Eliminator girls more room to accommodate their hair and posing They played directly into the ultimate teenage male fantasy: my life sucks I wish someone would magically appear and make it better... actually no I wish a playboy model would turn up and make it better.... no scrap that I wish THREE playboy models would turn up, and then I wish- actually it's probably best we leave the adolescent male fantasy there. Suffice it to say a young American's dreams are being enacted in five minutes with an accompanying sound track. If you really want to read too much into it you can formulate some theory about the appearance of the band at regular intervals being a confirmation that the trinitarian God the teenager grew up believing in but has started to doubt really does exist and is actually groovy and likes to party. No that's probably a step too far.

While it's easy for bands embracing the MTV age to focus more on the image than the music the members of ZZ top actually put a lot of effort into Eliminator and it works quite well as an album. Granted there's some filler but generally they've managed to write some catchy tunes that popularize their sound without sacrificing the guitar format that made them what they are. Anyone looking for a Jesus left Chicago or La Grange will be disappointed but the singles are catchy enough and the riffs, solos and rhythm are all there. Legs has dated badly but the rest of the tracks have aged better. They sound like ZZ Top could have recorded them yesterday, which is probably more of an indication of the band's rut than the track's timelessness.

So what does the future hold for the bearded funsters from Texas? Will they ever reclaim the heights they hit in the eighties? Probably not. But thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band there are whole new generations ready to groove again to their back catalog. In the eighties their fans may have been holding tennis rackets and looking at themselves in the mirror but today they'll be holding plastic guitars and staring at coloured lights moving down a screen. I just wonder whether the teenager sitting on the couch trying to beat his high score will be loving every minute or wishing three playboy models would drive up and transform his life.

Influenced by: Synthesizers, commercial aspirations and a nagging sensation that they once played the blues.
Influenced: Video clip makers of the late eighties.

Highlight: Sharp dressed man.
Lowlight: TV Dinners

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This cd is the best and so is KZPS!!! "

-Anyone out there have the faintest idea what KZPS is?

So does Eliminator eliminate all the competition or should it be eliminated itself? Let me know below.

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