Review Summary: devil’s advocate
I’m seventeen years old and I’ve never heard a Led Zeppelin record. It’s not that I actively try to avoid such music, but rather I’ve never gotten around to checking anything in the classic rock realm. I wasn’t brought up with it and I’ve never felt the urge to either. To that point, I’m willing to bet there’s a great number of teens just like me. Greta Van Fleet have been called a lot of things, a lot of wildly different things. ‘The Saviors of Rock in the Modern Age’ ; ‘The Group of Kids Trying Their Hardest to be Exactly Like Led Zeppelin Without Doing Anything New’. The difference between the two is a matter of perspective.
The one side of the coin has those that praise Greta Van Fleet for keeping the spirit of classic rock alive in the year 2018. Middle-aged parents who have probably seen Led Zeppelin live would give the band a pat on the back for continuing that sound. Teens and early twenty-somethings who grew up disliking the current generation of pop and hip hop music would give the band praise for making the music they believe their generation should be enjoying instead, for making ‘real’ music. To their and the band’s credit, Greta Van Fleet play the role of ‘bringing back the classic rock sound and spirit to the present’ to a tee. Vocalist Josh Kiszka has got some beastly pipes, that much is hard to deny. While the performance doesn’t vary much throughout the songs, the kid has ability or natural talent or whatever you’d call it. He’s got something and he’s using it as much of it as he can. The band behind him also play to the genre’s well established strengths and hold their own on occasion with their vocalist. “Age Of Man”, the album opener, is probably the best cut here. The atmosphere and melody on this track is engaging and the songwriting is without a doubt the most interesting the band has ever pulled off. The rest of tracks are, personally, rather middling and mediocre. However, once again, Greta Van Fleet plays up the classic rock sound and aesthetic exactly the way they need to in order to grab the attention of those who are fond of it.
That leads to the other side of the coin. Greta Van Fleet play up the classic rock sound and aesthetic a little too exactly. You’re probably as tired of it as I am, but there is a reason why the band is being constantly compared to Led Zeppelin (Ctrl-F it and see how many times that name pops up). I praised the vocalist for having ability, but he uses that ability to sound damn near like the famous Robert Plant. The band brings up some serviceable instrumentation, but their songwriting on most of these tracks are so generic and boring that they sound like B-sides from the bands of the 60s and 70s. It’s one thing to take influence and create something new with it, it’s another to sound like a carbon copy of that influence. Whether or not it was intentional, the band comes across as shamelessly camouflaging themselves with the sound of other classic rock acts in order to cash in on the nostalgia and yearning for that older sound that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Sure, the music is decent and listenable, but the principle of the matter is: if you’re not doing anything remotely new, if you’re not trying your best to be at least half original, then what you create has no point for existing really.
Personally, I don’t loathe the existence of this band as much as some (it’s just kids playing up the nostalgia of classic rock, something they probably loved growing up and love now) but the music doesn’t do anything for me. It’s rather boring and blends together into a bland paste of sound. However, consider the type of person who would buy the CD for this album or save a couple songs into a Spotify playlist. To them, Greta Van Fleet play a niche that they can’t get anywhere else. Considering they play that niche adequately and with enough effort to remind listeners of days of old and keep them interested in what they do next, that’s really all Greta Van Fleet really needs be for those listeners.