“Framing ‘All My Love’ as Killing-the-Critics-with-Kindness, Retrospectively”

Sometimes when my mom has the oldies station playing in the other room and I can only hear muffled, gentle clamoring, I’m not sure who the artist is. Like earlier I thought, Wow, is this freakin’ Blind Faith, but then upon closer scrutinizing I found it was Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit.”

And then there’s this artsy song I just heard — Wow, these guitar riffs are like giraffes running free on a hillside, and injected right into the verse like that, not even a deliberately climactic portion of the song. All of this is of course especially poignant when you realize “All My Love” is the simplest song Zeppelin wrote during the entire latter segment of their career, perhaps during their whole career.
As many people know, including anyone who’s closely watched Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, [1] Rolling Stone dissed every Zeppelin album, and even Lester Bangs sank his jaded, capped old teeth into 1976’s Dolby-darling Presence. Yet here we are in the 21st century, and pitchfork is ranking ZOSO as the seventh best album of the ’70’s, and hell, you can hardly go to a summertime side basketball driveway in my hometown without hearing the band blaring, usually a greatest hits, and the kids going “This is the best fu**ing band ever.” Sort of opposite the Velvet Underground in their day, though the same now: widely popular, but not necessarily critically acclaimed, at least not on all fronts.
And ok, maybe “All My Love” isn’t ACTUALLY directed toward the critics who dissed them the whole time, a song placed on their victory lap album, the intermittently listenable In through the Out Door. [2] But the point is that it COULD be, and it would work. And it would make sense, in a way: Zeppelin who from IV on took acute pains to nuance songs — the five-beat/four-stick “Four Sticks,” “Dancing Days” a deceptively complex ode with a half-step key change from chorus to verse and back — sundry rock epics from “No Quarter” on to “The Rain Song” on to “Kashmir” on to “Trampled underfoot” on to of course “Stairway to Heaven” on to “The Battle of Evermore.” First you do battle, and then your work is done… and what’s left? Well, no one can really explain it, like a suckerfish sucking up miscellaneous surrounding detritus, to be spun with eternal alacrity adjacent to “Give a Little Bit.”
[1] I have more respect for Cameron Crowe than ever now that I pick up the book Pearl Jam Twenty and find that he’s written the foreword, with considerable fandom-laden aplomb to boot.
[2] Coda doesn’t qualify as a studio album proper for me, muddled as it is (though stylishly) with outtakes from the band’s early days, including I and III sessions.

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