Billy F Gibbons
Verdict: A fun batch of covers
What’s the story?
Hardware, is the third solo album by ZZ Top legend Billy F Gibbons. The album was recorded at Escape Studio in California’s high desert, near Palm Springs, and was produced by Gibbons along with Matt Sorum and Mike Fiorentino with engineer Chad Shlosser providing additional production. Gibbons said: “I think we’re going to call it Hardware, and that’s in tribute to Joe Hardy, our stalwart engineer for four decades. He recently passed on, but in his wake he left the instruction manual – ‘Here’s how to do it.’ We’re still trying to get to the back chapters. It goes deep.”
Worth a listen?
This is a straight-ahead rock & roll album in the vein of ZZ Top, a record filled with originals that feel familiar, as they’re built of the same components Gibbons has relied upon for decades: fuzztone guitars, thick swing and burly boogie, sly jokes and growled vocals. What makes Hardware cook are the very elements that always work for Gibbons: deceptively sharp songwriting that supports full-throttle rockers and soulful, slower grooves. It’s a formula that’s yielded great results for Gibbons throughout the years, and they do once again here.
Songs fade in and drift off, melodies come into focus then float away, there isn’t a sense of urgency even to the rockers, of which there are a handful. The mixes are soft and lush, with vocal harmonies, keyboards and effects plastered over the submerged guitars, a sound that’s painterly yet pop. It suits Phair’s songs, which are pointed and poignant, alternating sketches with stories. The appealing thing about Soberish is how it holds two thoughts simultaneously, a record that revives the spirit of Phair’s earliest albums while casually leaning into her middle age.
The album’s coolest, most refreshing track is ‘Running Like That,’ a Jessy Lanza-like R&B tune with Eden Samara’s sweetly nudging vocals floating over busy beats that seem slightly apprehensive. This mixture of confidence and nervousness is present throughout James’ music, and it’s part of what makes it so honest and relatable. Reflection doesn’t quite have the shock of the new that her debut For You and I did, but its best moments are still powerful, and it would be impossible to mistake the album for anyone else’s perspective.
British Sea Power
In some respects, Disco Elysium recalls the 1990s efforts to fuse indie rock experimentalism with the structures and instrumental palette of classical music. With greater resources at their disposal, British Sea Power have been able to present their score with more full-bodied and exacting orchestration, and there’s rarely a moment where you’re not struck by the intelligence and dour beauty of this music. However, for all the brilliant moments, Disco Elysium doesn’t cohere into a complete musical statement on its own, which stands to reason, since it wasn’t initially intended to be heard separate from the images and sensory input of the video game it was created for.