Story by Ty Smith, Managing Editor
Photo courtesy of NPR
Greta Van Fleet might be young, but their sounds sure are old. The Frankenmuth, Michigan band formed back in 2012 and is made of three brothers – Josh, Sam and Jake Kiska – and their friend Danny Wagner. Since their formation, they’ve been building up national acclaim for their straight-from-the-70s sound and authentic, unironic delivery. With the release of “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” they seemed poised to capitalize on that success.
If only their album were good.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of talent in the young group, and they seem to show an appreciation for the art of classic rock. They go around in gaudy 70s jewelry, and the lead singer Josh has taken to wearing feather earrings and skintight leather pants during performances and interviews. The problem is that, in reaching back for that classic rock feel, they forgot to put anything unique into their music.
For years they’ve been saddled with comparisons to Led Zeppelin, and this album does nothing to combat that. From the fuzzy bass to Josh’s blustering yowl, every song on the record sounds ripped from the B-Side of a Zeppelin album. They have talent, but they don’t do much musically that hasn’t been done before. Each new track holds the promise of greatness, but ends up following the same old road every tribute band has been riding since classic rock’s heydays.
Lyrically, they’re in the same boat. Poetry, these songs are not. Mostly, they’re either idealistic literary fantasy, like the prog-rock groups back in the day, or they’re scrawls lusting after some sexy mama. This isn’t bad, per se – not every song can be a lyrical masterpiece – but it really seems like they ran old rock lyrics through a randomizer and just took what came out.
The result of this lack of inspiration is mere adequacy. Their songs aren’t boring to listen to, but they’re more likely to spark an urge to dust off an old Hendrix or Cream album than anything else. The tame, safe nature of their composure means that, for all their love of the craft and wild live performances, Greta Van Fleet winds up as a tribute band that just happens to write their own songs.
That adequacy seems to be their theme. The album isn’t bad, but it isn’t good. It’s alright for a listen and has some interesting bits, but it’s all been done before. I wouldn’t buy it, but I also wouldn’t be adverse to throwing a few of its songs into my 70s Rock playlist on Spotify. Somewhere hidden in the ghosts of Zeppelin and AC/DC that haunt their album, though, is the promise of improvement. I hope to hear more from Greta Van Fleet, and I hope their next album is the one where they find their own unique sound.
Ty Smith is a senior at Aquinas dual majoring in Computer Science and English. He loves reading, writing, and his cat Buttercup.