Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy (1973)

With the imminent arrival of Valentine's Day, I'd like to switch things up a bit -- after all, have we truly forgotten the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre? No, I haven't the time to massacre seven albums to equal the number of victims, but perhaps -- hear me out -- I can do to one what I would do to seven. Especially if the album is a sacred cow in need of an overdue slaughter whose reputation is supremely undeserving. No, I wasn't there, I didn't get the T-shirt and my zeitgeist card expired a long time ago with my lack of nostalgia. Sorry, I really don't know my victim.

So without further ado, let's venture into the Houses Of The Holy and do some deplorable sacrilege! (Brief caveat: Zep's first four albums are just short of amazing; there, that's my penance rock gods.) I really can't describe how much I loathe this album; it's a complete distillation of all the things that could have went wrong on their previous albums but somehow didn't. Yet, here they are on full display, every popped cyst, abscess and oozing sebaceous gland: egregious imitative blues/reggae/funk pilferings, pointless noodling and guitar wankery, tepid percussion and bass performances, and the seemingly endless caterwauling from the Diocese of this filthy sermon himself, Roberto De Planta of West Bromwich.

What's to say? "The Song Remains The Same" sounds like a bad Zeppelin rip-off; "The Rain Song" is a lot of time I'll never get back; "No Quarter" makes me wish I had one for the jukebox. "D'Yer Mak'er" is atrocious. As soon it starts, I want to pop a brick into Plant's mouth and make him stop. Then, I want Mssr. Page to stop. Then I want John to sober up. Then -- and where is JPJ's mad bass thumping? What can I say, oh my brothers and sisters? -- you know those hypotheticals where people say, oh so-and-so can put out a horrible album and anyone would buy it? This is that album. "The Crunge" is the most awful thing I've ever heard in my life.  "Dancing Days" is a precursor for Plant's later solo material. "The Ocean" is my favorite track to highlight, not because it sucks (though it does), but because I feel like this song exemplifies the excess and pompous nature the band had transformed into. Sure, it sounds like Zep, but a different, more bloated version. All the refinements blurred; all the intricacies swept away in favor of flawless production and the fact that they just didn't have it anymore. The only saving grace to this abortive monstrosity is "Over The Hills And Far Away" -- which I dig and dig so much, perhaps just because it's the only thing on the album I like. Sorry Zep-heads, my purplish tie-dye is comfortable, but I throw it into the wash when listening to this garbage. F


taotechuck said...

A bit overstated, perhaps, but not entirely wrong. The abomination that is The Song Remains the Same didn't just miraculously appear out of some random, steaming pile of crap; it was spawned by the overinflated egos of Houses-era Zeppelin.

If "The Crunge" is the worst thing you've ever heard in your life, you really should pop in disc 2 of How the West Was Won and dig on Jimmy's jerk-offs.

(Thank you, by the way, for using the words "wankery" and "noodling." I find them indispensable when describing Mr. Page, and I'm glad to see that you share my opinion.)

bob_vinyl said...

I was so looking forward to this review and yet...I'm aghast. Houses is an album that broke down the barriers of what a rock album could be and yet didn't compromise on the rock itself. Were teir egos inflated? Of course. This comes on the heels of four of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. The question is, were they over-inflated and I'd say no. On Houses of the Holy, they were fully inflated. From this point on, they would continue to make good (or great) rock albums, but never with the near-perfection of Houses.

taotechuck said...

See Bob. See Bob defend Zeppelin. Defend, Bob, defend! See Bob struggle to form an original thought. Struggle, Bob, struggle!

The Mad Hatter said...


I wish I could overstate it. This is probably one of my top ten most hated albums. Granted, some of it has to do with reputation, some of it with the fact that ZOSO was right before this, but mostly because it sucks. (And I do not like Jimmy's wang-doodling on some of the stuff on How The West Was Won.

Aghast? How so? You knew I was going to trash it, and that's what I did. I completely, unequivocally and ponderously disagree that this was near-perfection. If ZOSO is one of the greatest ever recorded, a statement as such has its merits. Houses Of The Holy? I don't think so. It clearly moves past that line of greatness, onto the plank and makes a large yucky splash in the ocean. I just wish I understood why so many love this album. It sounds like a rehab album 30 years later. Hell, I would expect this of them now, not then!

The Mad Hatter said...

And where the hell is Master Cianan on this one? I don't even know what you think of this one dude, but I'm sure you didn't weather the wankery, either.

Master Cianan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Master Cianan said...

OK, I know when I'm being baited into playing attack dog. You also know that luring mean remarks from me is really easy if you dangle Led Zeppelin in front of my chops. I'll do it anyway, you manipulative ass. And I'll do it for me.

I hate this album. Not as much as I hate the song remains the same or in through the out door, but since it isn't LZ III, it goes on my fecal roster. You see, these guys only had a couple songs I consider good. They also had a few mediocre songs that, while not great, they don't offend, but the lion's share of their music is what I like to call "an earful of cold diarrhea".

I will agree halfway with our host's assessment of "over the hills", in that it's reasonably good once that shitty acoustic part ends. As for the rest of the album, feh. lousy, but could be worse. You could drop a live microphone in a bucket of come and it would sound better than "song remains the same". That's worse.

I'll dolly back to LZ III for a minute... it has the immigrant song. That is a rockin' fucking song. It also contains out on the tiles. I dig the shit out of that riff. Gallows pole falls into the "listenable" category. This is all that record has going for it and it's by far their finest work. Ouch.

I'll talk about the wankery for a minute. My example, trite as it may seem, is the solo from stairway. It is an 8 bar solo with a couple extra minutes added in. In 8 bars you can play the beginning, middle, and end of that solo, and it is totally recognizable as the solo from stairway. I like a good wanky solo, and have been known to play a few myself, but good lord, Page needed to reel himself back quite a bit. To be fair, it's not as bad as "shut up and play yer guitar" but it's pretty terrible.

The best part of Zep, and the part of any of their songs that I like the best is bonzo's right foot. He played some really sexy stuff on that see-through kick drum. And that foot finally choked on its own puke and brought the band that had begun dabbling in disco to ruin.

and for that, I salute you, bonzo's foot.

Bob, you may now be aghast.

Jeff said...

I agree that this album is pretty poor, I wouldn't exactly give it an F but I would go somewhere close to it. In fact I don't think Zep released anything worthwhile after IV. Awhile ago I posted something about how I felt The Who was a superior band in comparison to Zep and obviously nobody agreed with me. My main argument is that The Who was more consistent and had a larger amount of solid material to choose from. Anyway, I feel like Zep really dropped off after IV and never recovered.

The Mad Hatter said...

Master Cianan,

Baited? You were given an invitation, man. That's not baiting. Of course, I've heard you rail against Zep for years, so I knew what to expect. I just figured that, of the albums I review, it would be inappropriate for you not to say anything. So there. And as for being manipulative, perhaps you "misremember" me. Has it been that long since we ran over and made that can of soda explode onto that RV in Monterey? I am far from subtle; I'm too crass to be otherwise, and you know that. Well, unless you're in a jumpsuit.


While by no means would I ever endorse any, and I mean any, of their later albums -- yet, In Through The Out Door and Physical Graffiti are better in my eyes than this stone-studded album. It's not saying much, but I think this was a veritable low-point. Coda is atrocious, but I had no expectations then.

Master Cianan said...

yeah yeah, invitation, bait, tomato, tomahto. Whatever your intentions, I enjoyed trashing zep, as always.

So where's Bob? I need the validation of somebody crying out "the sanctity!" after reading my tasteless comparisons and seeing the crude delight I take in the band's demise.

"jumpsuit"... he he he.

The Mad Hatter said...

You two need to kiss and makeup and trash a Stones album. That's a discussion worth hearing. Hey man, wait until I demolish Kiss. I know it's too easy, but you know it's inevitable, right? Part of me says trashing Kiss isn't even worth the time, though.

Master Cianan said...

you can trash kiss all you want, but they never tried to be anything more than the money-making spectacle that they were, and if you can't enjoy musical junk food once in a while, you don't know how to have any fun.

But when you do finally trash kiss on this site, at least trash something prior to "dynasty", because from dynasty on, it's all horrible with only a couple of songs being the exceptions.

actually, you ought to watch the video they made for "world without heroes" from music from the elder. It's so hilarious when Gene sheds a single tear.