❉ These boys are not just imitators, they mean it.
The boys from Frankenmuth, Michigan are back in town and as per usual, Greta Van Fleet continue to divide opinion. There are those who think they are the best thing since Warburton’s Toastie and those who see them as nothing more than a Led Zeppelin tribute band.
Greta Van Fleet (named after an 88 year old retired lady in their city) can count Elton John, Slash, Jason Bonham, Alice Cooper and Robert Plant as fans.
Let’s be honest, Josh Kiszka’s vocals are a dead ringer for the mighty Robert Plant in his prime. He surely must’ve felt empowered when he received praise from the great man himself. His brother, guitarist Jake even admitted that he “went through a year of really intensely studying what Page did to the point I knew how he thought”.
In many ways, what could be Greta Van Fleet’s biggest selling point could also be the albatross around their neck. In all fairness, there is a lot more to this band than the Led Zeppelin influence.
Battle at Garden’s Gate, their second album, has a lot to prove. Album opener, Heat Above is a mellow, Summery hippy anthem that brings to mind Yes more than Zeppelin. Straight away then, the cards are laid out on the table and if you are expecting this album to sound anything like 2021, you are going to be bitterly disappointed. These boys may be in their early twenties, but they are partying like it’s 1972. The single, My Way Soon, with it’s jangly guitars and lyrics celebrating the joys of freedom perhaps recall Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is the sound of a band steeped in their parents record collection or as today’s youth would describe it ‘Boomer Music’.
Any chance of playing down the Zeppelin comparisons is utterly obliterated by the time we reach Track 3, Broken Bells which sounds very much influenced by Stairway to Heaven. Whilst it’s not going to win any prizes for the most original sounding song in the world, it is a truly beautiful piece of music with some absolutely stunning guitar.
By the time we reach Track 4, Built by Nations, it wins you over so much that you really wish you were watching them in a field with 70,000 others and an overpriced beer. In fact, this is real summertime, Route 66, traditional rock and roll music that makes you feel how rock n’ roll music used to make you feel!
It’s the wonderful epic, Age of Machine that truly is the jewel in this album’s crown. A melancholy, dark, bluesy, instant classic that transcends its obvious influences. It’s quite simply the best song I’ve heard for years. It’s also unbelievable that something so magnificent has been produced by a band that are still so young. These boys are not just imitators, they mean it.
Stardust Chords begins with a dreamy, psychedelic intro and morphs into a stomping rocker that brings to mind Jethro Tull.
Caravel brings us back to firm Zep territory with delicious riffs and lyrics about sailing to the end of the world on a 15th century sailing ship. At times Josh Kiszka’s gutsy wail is also reminiscent of the late, great Chris Cornell.
Trip the Light Fantastic is a gem. Perhaps Greta Van Fleet at their most experimental, it’s a psychedelic, prog rock track that sounds like Rush’s Geddy Lee fronting The Beatles.
A special mention must go to producer Greg Kurstin (Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Adele). The production on this album is fantastic and makes the whole thing sound extraordinary and huge.
I don’t think that this album is going to massively sway public opinion on Greta Van Fleet. They do sound an awful lot like Led Zeppelin at times. But cast your mind back to 2007 and the Led Zeppelin reunion at the 02 in London. There were 20 million applicants for tickets for that concert.
Zeppelin are no more and there is still a huge appetite for that style of Classic Rock, from people young and old. There are other influences buried in the mix too, The Beatles, The Stones, Cream, The Who and many of the psychedelic and prog-rock bands of the late 60’s and early seventies. It’s phenomenal that a band so young can produce music like this, in these days of auto tune and conveyor belt tunes.
Anyway, so what if they do sound a bit like their heroes? Oasis sounded a bit like The Beatles, The Darkness sound a bit like Queen, Tori Amos sounds a bit like Kate Bush. It didn’t exactly hurt their careers did it?
Greta Van Fleet do not need to be the most original band in the world. If they can keep making albums of this high standard, that is enough.
❉ Greta Van Fleet – ‘Battle at Garden’s Gate’ released April 16 via Lava/Republic.
❉ David Geldard is a regular contributor to We Are Cult and loves Sci Fi & Horror, Doctor Who, Starburst Magazine, Stranger Things, The 60’s Avengers, Twilight Zone, The X-Files, cult movies and weird shit. He tweets as @BungleSir.