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The DVDs and CDs reinforced what a singular band Led Zeppelin was: ferociously potent, artistically ravenous, and capable of an unbelievable range of mood, style and groove. As Robert Plant said in an interview a few months after the DVDs’ release, “It was all over by the time I was 31. When I think about people who are 31 now, they’re just learning to tie their shoelaces.”


FINE FULL-LENGTH DEBUTS


Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Fiery Furnaces, the Kills, Jet, Kings of Leon, the Sleepy Jackson, the Hiss, the Hidden Cameras, the Cuts (technically their second, but whatever).


NO MORE PLUCKING AND WAXING


Facial hair continued its onward march across the rockfacescape, with Kings of Leon, Jack White, My Morning Jacket, the Black Keys and Peaches all sporting the mustache-plus. And then there was the “Cat Power, Unzipped” photo shocker in The New Yorker, which may presage the return of rock-star pubes in ’04.


MANY HAPPY RETURNS


Many artists returned this year — the Stooges, Al Green, Kraftwerk, Jane’s Addiction and Medicine — but so did whole eras. Occasionally they even intersected, as when Bez, the Happy Mondays’ infamous dancing Ecstasy corpse, leapt onstage at Glastonbury to join ’81 dance-punk retroists the Rapture for that band’s feet-pleaser “House of Jealous Lovers.”


A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD TO A HORSE
OF COURSE OF COURSE


Take a look at the thumbs-up-through-a-cartoon-heart sleeve to the Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” or watch any of their fromage-homageriffic videos (“Christmas Time [Don’t Let the Bells End]” is the latest and greatest) and tell me this isn’t a joke, one that’s all the more wonderful for its commercial success. Why settle for Tenacious D or Hedwig and the Angry Inch when we have an actual band in the real world who are topping the British charts with ludicrously proficient castrati-Queen-pomp rock . . . without once breaking character?


THEY MADE GREAT RECORDS


The White Stripes, Neil Michael Hagerty, Richard Hawley, Sun Kil Moon, Brother JT3, King Crimson, Mark Lanegan Group, the Dirtbombs, Six Organs of Admittance, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Badawi, Robert Wyatt, 22-20s, Massive Attack, Terry Hall & Mushtaq.


LIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM VISITING BANDS


Black Keys and Jet together at Spaceland, Turbonegro at the Troubadour, James “Blood” Ulmer Trio at the Jazz Bakery, Comets on Fire somewhere in Pomona, Pharoah Sanders at Catalina, the Libertines and the Stooges at Coachella, Sunno))) at Spaceland, Ween at the Wiltern, John McLaughlin’s Shakti project at UCLA, Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man at the Avalon, Spiritualized at the Avalon.


LIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM LOCAL BANDS


The Red Onions at Juvee; Hard Place at the Silverlake Lounge; the 88 at Spaceland; Brant Bjork & the Bros at the Knitting Factory; the Icarus Line at the Henry Fonda; the Chris Goss comedy hour at Spaceland; Mondo Generator at the Dragonfly; Fatso Jetson, Yellow No. 5 and Future Pigeon everywhere.


BUMMERS


Andrew W.K.’s The Wolf; the eagerly awaited new Pole album, ruined by some extremely ill-advised rapping by someone named Fat Joe; quote Black Flag unquote at the Palladium; Mrs. Ted Nugent bullying the token vegan on Father Ted’s VH1 reality-show special.


FLIGHT OF THE IRONIES


Reuters report: “U.S. troops psyched up on a bizarre musical reprise from Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now before crashing into Iraqi homes to hunt gunmen . . . With Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ still ringing in their ears and the clatter of helicopters overhead, soldiers rammed vehicles into metal gates and hundreds of troops raided houses in the western city of Ramadi after sunrise as part of a drive to quell a spate of attacks on U.S. forces.”


THE MIND REELS


CNN: “U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ended a speech at a Charlotte, North Carolina, seminary with a rousing rendition of a song he wrote called ‘Let the Eagles Soar.’” You can view this.