Monday, November 3, 2008

Led Zeppelin 9: In Through The Out Door

In the three years since their last album, the music scene had changed drastically, with the competing advents of punk and disco. Bands like Zeppelin didn’t fare well among the trendier kids, but as the record labels were happy to find, it was the not-so-trendy kids that bought In Through The Out Door in droves. You should never rule out the power of the high school parking lot.
Much of the album took the influence of John Paul Jones, who’d been experimenting more with keyboards and synthesizers, which are everywhere but used much more musically than as ear candy. Plant comes out of the gate with a deeper, more aggressive voice on “In The Evening”. The spooky sounds bridge nicely from old songs into this stealth-heavy approach. The middle section is a classic Zep transition before going back to the synths. But there’s still a lot of old-fashioned rock to be heard: “South Bound Saurez” has piano driving it, as does “Fool In The Rain”, albeit with a mid-song trip to Brazil. By this point in the album Page has stepped up in the writing. “Hot Dog” ends the side, a hysterical cowpunk song with an intentionally sloppy guitar solo.
Every Zeppelin album has to have an epic, and “Carouselambra” is this one’s. It’s synth-driven from start to finish, in multiparts that introduce themselves, step back, remerge and evolve. And it’s impossible to understand a single word of it. “All My Love” is their first chick song in ten years, with nice classical segments. It’s probably playing on the radio somewhere right now, through its eternal fade. “I’m Gonna Crawl” is a slow dirge with a fake string motif throughout, ending fittingly on an unresolved chord.
In Through The Out Door was a strong return after a long absence, and hinted that the band still had some life in them, no matter what anyone said. Keeping in step with their legendary mystique, the album was packaged with six different cover variations, but because each came in a paper bag, you didn’t know which cover you got until you unwrapped the cellophane. (The Deluxe Edition, unlike previous CDs, also sported a paper bag, but only one cover variation. Meanwhile, the bonus disc presented an alternate mix of the album, with only negligible differences, most noticeable on the beginning of “In the Evening” and here and there on “Carouselambra”.)
The album wasn’t an immediate success, but Zeppelin seemed determined to forge ahead. They were even playing decent live shows across Europe, and were planning to come to America when forty shots of vodka got the better of their drummer, causing the band to quietly call it quits as the decade closed. But as with all legendary rock bands, the story wasn’t quite over.

Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door (1979)—4
2015 Deluxe Edition: same as 1979, plus 7 extra tracks

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