Saturday, November 18, 2006
Led Zeppelin - In Through The Outdoor
I know it might not be the most popular opinion ever, but I do truly believe that Led Zeppelin got better with every album. The rock critics of the world don't want you to know this, you know. They want you to think that their first four albums are all absolutely untouchable rock classics, and that despite the many moments of brilliance that followed, Zep just continously lost the plot as time went on.
Zeppelin's first, second, and third albums all have their share of remarkable songs, but they sound like they could have knocked them out in about a week or so (and they probably did, as the first two were both released in 1969.) It wasn't until the fourth record that they started to sound truly confident. The songs were more compositionally "mature," and sounded like they had put much more thought into the writing and recording of them. It isn't always the case that more time in the studio means better music, but in the case of Zeppelin, this was (is?) very much the case.
Houses of the Holy was an even better album. They sounded like they were putting even more thought into their music, and even the most fillery song on the album ("The Crunge") ends up being one of the best songs they ever did. Christ, that's a great album. Led Zeppelin was best when they took chances with their music! The more adventurous they became, the more unstoppable they sounded. This is a fact! Sometimes their adventurousness was bogged down by uninspired songwriting like on Presence, but we can forgive them for that because it wasn't exactly made under the best of conditions.
In fact, neither was In Through The Outdoor, most likely, seeing as John Paul Jones seems to be the man at the head of most of these songs. Listen to all these fuckin' pianos and strings and and disco synths! Wow! That's some unexpected shit right there. I'm sure the world thought they were just a bunch of out-of-touch geezers who were trying to "stay hip" by incorporating all of these non-guitar elements. The world was probably right, but, fuck, these songs are just fantastic. For one thing, they don't sound as rushed as the ones on Presence. They're just as creative as the ones on Houses of the Holy, except there's a bunch of keyboards and they explore a wider range of musical genres.
The best part about Zeppelin, I think, is just how much fun they could be, which is probably the reason Rolling Stone thought they were crap because music isn't supposed to make you feel good about anything. Sure, "South Bound Saurez" is heavy cajun boogie woogie bar rock, but damnit, it's a great song! Why would somebody not like this song? It's not even an obvious "fillery" song like "Hot Dog" (which also rules.) And the more keyboardy numbers like "Fool In The Rain" and "All My Love"... these are just fantastic pop songs! They're two of the best things Zeppelin ever did. Does somebody honestly prefer the way-too-ordinary blues-rock of their first record to these two ditties? WHY??? Why would anyone feel this way? God, blues-rock is one of the more worthless genres ever.
"Carouselambra" is like "'Kashmir' goes disco!" Disco is great, in case you feel otherwise, in which case, you're wrong. John Paul Jones taking charge of this record is a lot like how Paul McCartney was the dominant force on Abbey Road. He's going to pull his band through one last album because he believes in them and their ability to end their musical reign of (mostly) greatness on a high, awesome note, even if it means having more influence on the songs than any other member. Which reminds me, while we're discussing Abbey Road comparisons, isn't "I'm Gonna Crawl" just a weirdly perfect way to end their career? Much like "The End"? Except it's like "The End" and "Her Majesties" rolled into one! You get the awesome guitar solo, the big, inspirational string section, the devastatingly emotive vocal performance, etc. But that's just the "The End" part. See, "I'm Gonna Crawl" is a SOULFUL BALLAD, like Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett or something. Not exactly something you would expect from Zep. Like "Her Majesties," it's a pretty "wtf" way to end the last album of one of the best bands ever. But it's great, see. That's the thing. Because this band was great. Be happy they stopped when they did. Don't be happy about Bonham dying, though. So just assume all the albums after this one would have been mediocre.
Dan should have written this review instead of me.
Song: The whole album!