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In Through The Out Door

Swan Song (1979)
Rating: 8/10

Over three years after the release of 1976’s Presence, Led Zeppelin returned all the better for the break with what is probably the band’s most influential opus since Physical Graffiti (1975).

Despite the daft title, In Through The Out Door would be Zeppelin’s last album to consist entirely of original material. But despite its success, the band’s eighth studio opus was panned by many critics, some asking as to whether the band still had the drive and enthusiasm?

Well, album opener ‘In The Evening’ seemed to suggest otherwise, as it briskly jigs into the room on another hard rockin’ guitar, bass and drum union. Led Zeppelin were suddenly carving out songs to drive your car to, although the piano-led ‘South Bound Suarez’ is more of a bar-room jaunt rather than punchy rock ’n’ roller.

The same could also be said for the pop-tinged hop of ‘Fool In The Rain’, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the band had strolled away from their hard rock blues, this track being one of the band’s most simplistic cuts for years. Catchy, cute and summery, it’s the sort of track one could imagine blasting out on a sun-drenched beach, but despite its innocence it boasted some of Robert Plant’s purest vocals.

However, it’s just a shame the same couldn’t be said for the manic skiffle of ‘Hot Dog’, probably the album’s daftest song. Very much influenced by American rockabilly it sees Zeppelin very much out of their comfort zone – if they ever had one – and it’s an annoying little ditty best suited to a barn dance such is its hoe-down feel.

The album’s mid-section is bolstered by the prog-rock groove of ‘Carouselambra’, a ten-minute extravaganza which evokes images of ELO’s stadium rock with its zippy guitar and zappy synthesizer. Mind you, at its heart there is a good rock song on offer, but again it’s Zeppelin at their most fiddly and laborious. A song in three segments, it alters pace throughout, but merely exists as a plateau for both guitarist Jimmy Page and drummer John Bonham to exhibit their skills.

The album closes with the synth-led plod of ‘All My Love’ – Plant’s vocals really shine, crystal clear against the twinging backdrop of Page’s guitar – and ‘I’m Gonna Crawl’, which oozes from the speakers like a dramatic film soundtrack. Awash with keyboards and sweeping structures the latter is probably my favourite track on the album. Bonham’s plod is simple yet effective as Plant croons “Oh she’s my baby, let me tell you why, hey, she drives me crazy, she’s the apple of my eye”.

‘I’m Gonna Crawl’ seems a fitting finale to this mixed bag of a record, but it does hearken back to the dramatic days of ‘Dazed And Confused’ (from the band’s 1969 self-titled debut) and the like with its injection of guitars and drums. But it is Robert Plant who steals the show here, possibly getting revenge for being lost in too many over-elaborate instrumental passages.

Despite its lows, In Through The Out Door is an improvement on Presence, and although lacking the weight that some of us had hoped for, it is still a fine Led Zeppelin platter.

Neil Arnold

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