Saturday, September 17, 2011

Houses of the Holy (1973)

By the end of the '70s, under the sway of punk-rock and poor old beleaguered new wave pop music, I had come to loathe two bands above all others: the Eagles and Led Zeppelin. My distaste for Led Zeppelin had started in the aftermath of IV, which, paradoxically, perhaps I "loved too much" in its immediate moment. After the number of times I heard "Stairway to Heaven" on the radio began to approach approximately five figures the bloat and the exhaustion were unmistakable. And though I would later make a fetish of "Kashmir" for the most part I was done with them, their appeal for me on a long slow slide that would not bottom out until some point in the '80s. Thus I did not make the effort to acquaint myself with this until about 15 years after the fact, wondering at myself for even buying it at all the day I left the used record store with a copy. But lo and behold it struck like a lost treasure, full of pleasures great and small, and turned out to be one of the better purchases I made that day. I listened to it frequently for months. Listening again, I think a good deal of that was making my peace with a band I had loved, bitterly rejected for reasons good and bad, and come to rediscover. It sounds patchier to me now than I remember, and "The Crunge" very nearly torpedoes it. A kind of tribute to James Brown that can as well be heard as misplaced mockery, needless to say it's not in possession of even a fraction of Brown's funk power, no surprise from the anti-dance fancy-time-signatures Led Zeppelin, which raises questions about the decision to do it at all. A good deal of the bombast, the risk for which was ever the downside to their winning power equation, is replaced more often here by a decidedly softer side, gentle exercises in things that might almost be taken as ballads, except the power dynamics intrude on them, achieving a welcome balance, especially as the album opens and takes off: "The Song Remains the Same," "The Rain Song," and "Over the Hills and Far Away" are fine additions to their classic catalog. The second vinyl side loses its way some, though I think "Dancing Days" goes with their best, and I don't have the complaints about "D'yer Mak'er" that certain factions among the faithful do. "No Quarter" and "The Ocean" now suggest to me much of what was to come as the band left Atlantic and moved on to their own label: largely unfocused exercises with all too fleeting moments of clarion brilliance. I don't hate them any longer the way I did in 1979, but I haven't forgotten how I came to that position in the first place either.

No comments:

Post a Comment