Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin

Swan Song Records, 1975

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


It's been about five years since music became a major focus in my life, and in that time I've figured out that the double album is rarely a good idea. Often, they serve as the ultimate point of excess, coming at a commercial peak: Exile On Main Street, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, etc.

At this point in its career, Zeppelin had said all they needed to say. IV and Houses of the Holy were their grand statements, two of the finest rock albums ever recorded and works that pretty much set the standard for rock and roll from then on. Physical Graffiti is merely a holding pattern for those milestones, meaning this album is solid but does not reach the same highs as previous discs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first half of Physical Graffiti is where you find the big guns. Everyone knows the Middle Eastern-flavored, thundering "Kashmir," one of the band's pinnacle songs that nearly captures everything they ever tried to say in eight powerful minutes. "In My Time Of Dying" is a blistering 11-minute blues workout that builds and keeps its momentum, never stooping to the level of "Since I've Been Lovin' You" from III but forging a new path. "Trampled Underfoot" is the other standout, a stomping "love" song with a slight R&B flavor, a keyboard solo  and the best groove the band ever wrote, while "The Rover" sports some effective guitar work from Jimmy Page that flows in a sort of grunge haze, a smoky bar at 2 am. "I've been to London / seen seven wonders / I know to trip is just to fall," Plant sings, and you know he means it.

But the second platter is where things get a little dicey. "Ten Years Gone" is a surprisingly touching number with some melancholy guitar work, and "In The Light" parlays a quiet menace into an engaging song, one that takes time to grow. That's about it, as most of the other numbers are short excursions into different sounds. "Bron-Yr-Aur" is a sequel of sorts to its acoustic predecessors, a two-minute solo that leads into the country-rock of "Down By The Seaside" (think the Stones' "Wild Horses," but not as touching). Other passable numbers include "Sick Again," "Boogie With Stu," "Black Country Woman" -- all solid, to be sure, but lacking the power and subtle majesty of the band's other work.

Now, as I stated in my Zeppelin III review, any music from the band is better than most rock music out there. It's not a classic like its predecessors, but it's a solid and engaging listen, and there is no crime against a holding pattern sounding so good. Definitely worth hearing, as long as you don't expect every song to be classic. 

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



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