I think what I like most about people is that they relentlessly mock any musician who dares to live and record past thirty years of age on the basis that they’ve ‘lost it’, and then steadfastly refuse to pay any attention to the ones who repeatedly prove this to be incorrect. Wait a minute…that’s what I hate about people! Please – pardon my muddle-headedness. I’m all in a tizzy at the moment, what with the constant strife at home and abroad. I’m not sure how I could have made such an elementary error; anyone with ears could tell that the grizzlies still have it.
The days are long past when one could safely rely on the assumption that any musician still recording decades after their debut was artistically bankrupt, and yet the myth continues. Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Springsteen, Dinosaur Jr, Paul Simon, – all are just recent examples of artists making work that more than measures up to their back-catalogue. The most recent Beach Boys, Pixies and Red Hot Chili Peppers albums also pulled their weight, despite the sweaty protestations of the balding gen-X press.
Even amongst the already criminally-overlooked category of the still-got-its, Robert Plant is treated like a leper. While Jimmy Page bathes in the perpetual greasy adoration of teenage guitarists the world over, making his presence known once every five years to dredge up something inevitably Zeppelin-related, Plant has long been regarded with scarcely concealed amusement. Oh, he’s still doing that recording thing? That’s cute, good for him! Pity about the beer-belly, ho-ho! Even where an article deigns to cover his current output in any depth, the writer inevitably feels compelled to spend an inordinate amount of time screeching about his ‘ravaged’ looks and barraging us with intolerable Led Zeppelin puns.
This is despite the fact that Plant is not only making music of a quality that puts fellow musicians of all ages to shame, but doing so in a manner that is consistently exploratory and creative to a degree not seen in his contemporaries. Particularly on his two most recent albums, Plant has managed to walk the tightrope between embracing modernity without dad-dancing style embarrassment and maintaining quality without timid reliance on his ‘classic’ sound. Where other 70s acts elect to hopelessly chase the sound-of-the-month or re-write the same song for album after album, Plant has quietly and confidently put out music that is modern, creative, and surprising. Losing ‘it’ is not an inevitability. People just have to be prepared to see it.