ZZ Top seems close to ending their longest-ever break between studio projects, as evidenced by a leak of the laid-back, melodic 'Flyin' High,' the first new studio track we've heard from them in eight years. It comes from from their as-yet untitled 15th studio album, which is expected in stores sometime in 2012.

You may remember 'Flyin' High' as the track we shared, albeit in fuzzy quality, when it was played for Russian astronauts back in June. Now a full-length (but apparently unfinished) version has found its way onto the internet.

Not to sound too much like Nuke LaLoosh here, but after all that time off, it's hard not to wish ZZ Top had announced their return with, well.. a bit more authority. Instead the song relies largely on the kind of tasteful, but not entirely memorable, chugging guitar riffs featured bit too frequently on recent Top albums.

Still, it is Billy Gibbons we're talking about, and here as always, his winding guitar solos are easily worth the price of admission. 'Flyin' High' also features a nice rhythmic change-up in the form of some understated cowbell work from beardless drummer Frank Beard.

The biggest surprise comes when the sunny, irony-free and flat-out soaring chorus hits: "Fly high / I'm gonna touch the sky / Fly high / Her kind of loving gonna get me by." It's downright Californian, especially coming from three Texans, and it's easy to picture thousands of fans singing along in concert.

Gibbons has promised that the new album will feature a diverse blend of classic ZZ Top sounds, so it's safe to assume we'll hear more distinctive guitar work on future tracks. Maybe they're just starting us off with the change-up first. (It's also possible we're just rookies, in need of a Bull Durham lecture.)

As we said up top, we don't know the release date or title of ZZ Top's upcoming album. (In our recent interview, Gibbons mentions, perhaps jokingly, they had toyed with calling it "Burrito Deluxe.') If you're lucky enough to be catching them in the coming weeks as they perform across America, maybe you can ask 'em for us, huh?


(Update: We've been informed by ZZ Top's publicists that the version we reviewed is not the final version of 'Flyin' High,' that it isn't at all certain to be the first single, and that the release date for the new album will likely be in 2012. We removed the video at the band's request, and will eagerly re-evaluate the finished version as soon as we can.)

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