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Led Zeppelin are one of the world’s greatest bands. They wrote some of the best songs you’ll ever hear. They influenced thousands of musicians from heavy metal bands to hip-hop artists. They reconfigured the music industry, playing to giant stadiums and huge crowds. Their place in the history of rock and roll is forever guaranteed. But in 2018 should we stop listening to them?

2018 is #MeToo year. It’s the year when women are no longer afraid to speak out. The year when women are providing much of the political energy in the US. The year of the Irish abortion referendum. 2018 is the year of the woman.

Led Zeppelin are one of the world’s greatest bands, but many of their songs are also from a very different lyrical era. ‘The Lemon Song’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’. They’re hardly the songs of the year when woman are no longer afraid to speak out. So, in 2018 should we stop listening to them?

At what point do we decide to change our minds about a band? Matt Mondanile left Real Estate after allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Attitudes to Mark Kozelek changed after his comments about Laura Snapes. Kanye West has been ridiculed for his absurd claim that slavery was a choice.

To be absolutely clear, none of the members of Led Zeppelin has been accused of any such crimes, or even similar verbal transgressions! It’s wrong to compare some of their lyrics with anything that has happened in 2018. More than that. Those lyrics weren’t even out place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Why should we judge them by the standards of our times? Sure, even Robert Plant seems to have distanced himself from his previous incarnation as a rock god.

But if Robert Plant has perhaps changed his mind, then maybe we have too. Much of this year’s musical energy has come from all-women bands like Dream Wife and female artists like Snail Mail. And someone like Kacey Musgraves has shown that it’s possible for a woman to challenge the masculinity of a whole music machine. Things seem different now.

In this context, maybe Led Zeppelin will simply become less relevant. Less referenced. Less sampled. Less listened to. Without passing judgment, maybe we will just move on.

So, should we stop listening to Led Zeppelin? No. But will we end up by not listening to them as much as before? Maybe.

Oh, and their songs about elves and fairies are a pretty tough ask now as well.

 

 

If you can’t think of anything wry, sly, faintly ironic, or even mildly amusing to say, then just signal that some really good albums have been released in the last few weeks and leave it at that.

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs

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The more you listen, the better it gets. For Wye Oak’s new album isn’t quite as immediate as some of its predecessors. Nonetheless, it’s well worth making your way up a very large sand dune in what aren’t the world’s most sensible shoes to listen to.

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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There’s a lovely languorousness to much of Golden Hour, including the title track itself. For an album with country roots and acoustic melodies, it still knows how to get into a slightly spacey groove. And there’s a beautiful song about mothers too.

Laura Veirs – The Lookout

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The Lookout is Laura Veirs’ best album for quite some time. Produced by Mr Laura Veirs, the great Tucker Martine, the arrangements are impeccable. And as if that’s not enough, there’s a cameo from the Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens as well.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

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There’s a simple conceit at the heart of Kacey Musgrave’s wonderful new album. She’s a part of country, yet she ain’t. The country themes are pretty standard. There are songs about family, and small towns. “I’m just a dime store cowgirl”, she sings, “That’s all I’m ever gonna be, You can take me out of the country, But you can’t take the country out of me”. There’s usually a twist, though. “I ain’t pageant material, I’m always higher than my hair”. And oftentimes the twist is a slightly bitter one. “[I]t ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage”. It can make for slightly uncomfortable listening for a certain kind of country audience. “We all wrangle with religion”, she confides, “We all talk, but we don’t listen”. There are also a couple of swipes at the music industry. “Let’s promise when we get in that we’ll try to get right out”, she sings on ‘Late To The Party’, “Fake a couple conversations, make the necessary rounds”. And there’s a debate about whether ‘Good Ol’ Boys Club’ is getting at Nashville’s own Big Machine Records and even Taylor Swift herself. Sometimes it seems like a thin line to be treading, but it’s one that she safe on for the moment. The records are selling. The awards keep coming in. And perhaps, just perhaps, she’s captured a certain cultural Zeitgeist that others have failed to grasp. It wouldn’t work, of course, if the songs weren’t strong. They are. Or if the voice wasn’t so sublime. It is. Pageant Material is a great album and one that’s at its best when it’s willing to push the conceit as far as it will go. Keep pushing.

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Pitchfork review

American Songwriter review