It always cracks me up that - along with the actual lyrics - all the oh's
are printed in the CD booklet (I don’t want to draw big conclusions from that, like they were so stoned the scatting contained Satanic messages! ... it’s just funny).
Anyway, Houses of the Holy
was Led Zeppelin’s weirdest album yet, but the problem is I can’t exactly pin down why. I guess it’s the diversity of styles and the atmosphere, plus it lacks the homogeneity that made the third album much better than it really is. Instead this is a loose, sprawling, maybe even messy album that switches from ‘nonsensical’ to ‘mysterious’ to ‘carefree’ in a split second.
A lot of people have criticized the album and the band for trying to do too many things at once, as they'd incorporated not only Blues, Rock and Folk, but this time around also Funk and Reggae, but I’ve always considered such diversity an asset in Led Zeppelin's case.
Granted, their funk workout “The Crunge” feels a bit awkward at first, and Plant stretches those syllables for way
too long, but were there any other bands of the time that even dared to release something like this? Plus, it sounds great, especially those drums and guitar parts, which steal the show throughout this album.
Houses of the Holy
certainly isn’t the band's best album – it lacks the unity of the untitled one, and the raw brilliance of the debut – but it does contain some of their best songs. “No Quarter” is in my Top 5, it might even have been the first Led Zeppelin song I liked. For there was a time I considered these 1970’s dinosaur bands a bunch of self-absorbed wankers, but that’s over a decade ago – and they were, of course - but I’ve always like the unsettling, mysterious drama of "No Quarter", the way Jones’ keyboards evoke this blurry atmosphere of weightlessness. Sounds weird, but I’m sure that everyone who loves the song knows what I mean. Then the guitar kicks in, the keyboards go to a higher register, until the riff takes over to disappear again, letting Plant’s distorted vocals further the atmosphere. It’s one of the band’s most 'open' songs, a free-floating anthem with several layers of keyboards (I love it when the piano kicks in on top of the ‘watery’ synthesizer). Perhaps not that interesting when regarded on a purely structural level, but it’s certainly one of their most sonically pleasing and intriguing songs.
by Reviewer: Guy Peters
(blogging at Guy's Music Review Site
)2nd May 2004