MUSIC REVIEW | Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Almost every song just sort of oozes into bland existence, meanders for a while, then slowly drips away.”

Holy 1
So, Led Zeppelin are rock and roll legends who refuse to leave the zeitgeist. I like loud, rocking music and wailing solos.  So why has this band never grabbed me in any real way?  Time to give it yet another shot, with Houses of the Holy.

Opening with less of the patented rock and roll I expect from Zeppelin and more for a cool groove, approaching funk, The Song Remains the Same is a surprising and unexpected start.  It’s always a good thing when I think I’m familiar with a band, by pure virtue of their enduring legacy, but they’re still able to surprise me.  The song becomes a little rambling and shapeless once Robert Plant’s vocals join the mix, but musically, it’s tight and driving and all kinds of awesome.

Things get acoustic, finger picked and contemplative on The Rain Song, before going for downright lush and beautiful when the string section comes in.  When it leads into the cool rock of Over the Hills and Far Away, I started to realise how Robert Plant-lite Houses of the Holy is.   These first three songs account for almost half of the record’s running time, and they all offer way more instrumental noodlings than vocal hooks and choruses.   And I’m suprised by how OK I am with that.  I love Plant’s voice, but when its absence leaves room for so much instrumental coolness, I don’t miss it.

Especially when his voice comes in so heavily on the kind of lame, funk wannabe that is The Crunge.  Led Zeppelin made a career out of co-opting black music and the blues.  And that’s where they should have stopped.  Because this sounds like a bunch of honkies trying to sound cool.  But this song is almost worth it, because it makes me appreciate Dancing Days all the more.  It’s straight ahead rock and roll, with a few flourishes here and there to make it just that little bit different and unique.

Another good thing I can say about The Crunge is, it’s slightly less shit than the monumentally half assed reggae of D’yer Mak’er.  I mean, holy shit is this song bad.  Enough to make me wonder if this is even the same band who made classics like Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven and The Battle of Evermore.
Holy 2
According to Wikipedia, “Houses of the Holy became a huge success, and was certified eleven times platinum”.  Now, as someone who just finished listing to Houses of the Holy upwards of 60 seconds ago, that news baffles me.  This album is an unequivocal mess.  There’s no shape to it, there’s no stand out moments, there’s nothing to hold on to.  Almost every song just sort of oozes into bland existence, meanders for a while, then slowly drips away.  And the few highpoints of actual rock and roll come way to infrequently to ever break free of the durge.

Led Zeppelin

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about Houses of the Holy?
Consequence of Sound
Rolling Stone

2 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEW | Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973)

  1. The Ocean is an underrated one – great riff, memorably sampled by the Beastie Boys on their debut a decade later.

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