A lot has been made of Greta Van Fleet in the run-up to the drop of their debut Anthem Of The Peaceful Army (Republic/Lava). They have had a meteoric rise and are now signed to the biggest record label in the world at pretty tender ages. Sure they wail and rule copying the light, shade, and lore of Led Zeppelin, sometimes too well. You’ll find no argument from this writer about Zep being the best rock band ever, and these are good building blocks. On the other hand, quick critics and fans haven’t noted how great these four guys are. At such a young age, you need to judge them and judge slowly. These are the fledgling attempts at figuring it all out, developing as writers, and post-teen brains forming as adults. When you listen to this album, turn off your cynical self and listen to the love and talent pouring out of your speakers.
The album opens with a majestic rock ballad, ‘Age of Man’. For a band that is so very young, the album is dotted with socially conscious themes of unity, with a goal of uplifting the less fortunate. This may get lost in the hype around the songs, but this harkens back to their recent cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. A plea for peace may evoke thoughts as “hippy bs” and charges of being “snowflakes”, but it’s a message we need more of today.
‘The Cold Wind’ and ‘When The Curtain Falls’ are much mold in the style we are used. Rock and R & B influenced riffs, jangley versus and chorus, led by Josh Kiszka caterwauling vocals. Both songs are energetic and fun. Sure there a lot of Zep I & II references in these songs too, but the tracks are solid. ‘Watching Over’ was the first of the singles that preceded the album to really wow me. Another power ballad full of swagger and soul. Definitely one of the most gripping and original songs the band has made.
The record is definitely sequenced to alternate between the types of tracks GVF fans are used to hearing and newer types of tracks where the band is trying to stretch out and find themselves. ‘Lover, Leaver’ is another strong, riffy jam. While the flip side is the countrified folksy love song of ‘You’re The One’. ‘The New Day’ also flirts with another backwoods campfire-song track.
‘Mountain Of The Sun’ isn’t terribly original in musical or lyrical moments, but it’s serviceable, and surely gives each member a chance to shine. ‘Brave New World’ is another top track. It seems like the slower, more thoughtful moments make up all the best stuff here on Anthem….
Closing with the pensive ‘Anthem’, the band again draws away from what made them famous and seems to hint at where they are going down the road, less rock and much more peace and love, dude. As much Zep worship is clearly baked into this band, I wouldn’t be shocked if the band evolves to a much more cultured mellow sound owing to their other influences like The Stones, Eagles, Neil Young And Crazy Horse and better moments from The Grateful Dead. We might be seeing another Blind Melon or another Dave Matthews Band in its embryonic stage. Hopefully the former and not the latter for most rock fans.
Greta Van Fleet isn’t going to save rock n roll by being awesome at interpreting Zep or any influences. They are finding their own voice and using the past as a compass, just like every band in every genre has done before them. This means their final trajectory is as yet unknown, and as solid as this album is, the band is still finding its footing. I’m excited to see where this path takes them.