Ok let’s just get this out of the way: yes, Greta Van Fleet sound a lot like Led Zeppelin. Like almost hilariously similar to Led Zeppelin. Everything from the guitar tones to the bounce of the rhythm section to how singer Josh Kiszka sounds like he’s always singing “Heartbreaker.” Even worse, they’re a quintet who wears frilly clothes, like to jam during live concerts and are rooted in both mysticism and getting girls. Hell if they were British they’d probably never get a record deal and be mistaken for a tribute band.
So congratulations Internet, you pointed out something incredibly obvious about a new music artist and are using it to try to sink them. Lot of good that’s done to all the other running jokes you’ve got going, that’s why 6ix9ine DOESN’T have a platinum selling single, Drake’s career TOTALLY tanked after “The Story of Adidon” and Maroon 5 are NOWHERE NEAR the Super Bowl Halftime Show. The point is that there’s no point in mocking Greta Van Fleet for paying homage to the peak of classic rock because there are much worse things is popular music that deserves constant mockery. And here’s the punchline: Led Zeppelin made some of the greatest music ever and if a band is going to copy someone, shouldn’t it be one of the greatest bands of all time? Like imagine if they tried to imitate The Captain and Tennille?
On their official debut album, Greta Van Fleet present a crystal-clear display of their sound for better or worse. Anthem of the Peaceful Army is a crisp and tight run of funky blues rock, boogie, southern rock and..ok, still Led Zeppelin. Specifically Led Zeppelin II’s booming groove and Led Zeppelin III’s slightly-folksy guitar rock. It’s hard not to wait for “Whole Lotta Love” to break out in the middle of “Lover, Leaver” while “The New Day” sounds like an alternate take on “Tangerine” or the more famous Zeppelin cut “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Fortunately Greta Van Fleet seem to have more than one influence as “You’re the One” is a proud clone of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” while “When the Curtain Falls” sounds like a loose Bon Scott-era AC/DC cut. Though adding more to the joke is the fact that “The New Age” and “Watching Over” sound like they’d be better suited for Stillwater from Almost Famous.
That doesn’t mean the music’s bad, far from it. “The New Day” is the album’s highlight mixing the clear acoustic guitar of Jake Kiszka with the tight drumming of Danny Wagner, with a crisp electric guitar solo to top it all off. Greta Van Fleet make solid rock singles under four minutes, but it’s when they slow down and find a groove that they fly. Wagner pounds away at the drums to back Kiszka’s scratching riff on the epic “Brave New World” while the slow-burn of “Watching Over” allows the duo of Jake and Josh Kiszka to play off of each other with scorching guitars and soaring vocals. Even on the quicker cuts like “The Cold Wind” and “When the Curtain Falls” are loads of fun compared to the current landscape of rock music.
One of the more famous cases of rock copycats is Oasis and their mimicry of The Beatles. Greta Van Fleet share a similarity or two with the brothers Gallagher in the songwriting department as on “When the Curtain Falls” flips “Supersonic” to be about a vapid famous girl (“You’re counting all your rings/They all said they loved you/Didn’t they, darling?/Well, they’ve taken all your things”). Mostly the band sticks with the loose mysticism of Zeppelin’s peak years with hints of Kinks-inspired pop songwriting. “Lover, Leaver” mixes general lust (“Oh my holy Lord/Sets my soul on fire/Flames of love and sweet perfume/She’s my heart’s desire”) with fantasy imagery (“Oh God hellfire/Witch of Endor raised/Saul would fall to his knees, watch the fire blaze”) while “The Cold Wind” is borderline folklore (“The Yankee peddler bargains with you on his way/Woe sweet mama’s gotten herself a new dress/Keep the children snug as the wagon rolls on/When the cold wind blows most of them will be gone”). Perhaps Greta Van Fleet should stay in the era that influenced them because they don’t fit on speaking in the 21st century. The slow folk of “Anthem” has a rather confusing message of peace and acceptance (“And every glow in the twilight knows/That the world is only what the world is made of/Just you and me can agree to disagree/That the world is only what the world is made of”) that borders on the unbareable corniness of “Kumbaya My Lord.”
So yes, Anthem of the Peaceful Army is the best Led Zeppelin album since Presence even though it’s by Greta Van Fleet. As annoying as the constant Zeppelin comparisons are, the thing that cuts the band down is that there doesn’t seem to be a hint of something fresh they bring to the songs. Other famous bands like Oasis, The Black Crowes and Jet who’ve been accused of mimicry came with a twist beyond their influences. Oasis had a more pompous attitude and working-class background to distance themselves from The Beatles, The Black Crowes had more of a loose bounce than their Southern rock spirits in Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even Jet had a rougher delivery than their Australian brethren AC/DC. As for Greta Van Fleet, well….they’re from Michigan? Anthem of the Peaceful Army is a solid rock album from talented musicians that sadly doesn’t have anything new to say. That doesn’t mean Greta Van Fleet should be dismissed outright but it’s up to them to build something new out of their influences. So maybe the Internet should keep up the Zeppelin jokes for now, right after it praises the deep emotional dexterity of Post Malone’s music because those are both TOTALLY worth everyone’s time.