Always Late to the Party: (not) Bashing Greta Van Fleet

Pitchfork–Greta Van Fleet: Anthem of the Peaceful Army (1.6/10)

The debut from the young Michigan rock band is stiff, hackneyed, overly precious retro-fetishism.

First, let’s ignore that Pitchfork–a once independent music publication–personifies the bullshit web at this point, so clicking on the above link will subject you to two video ads featuring Lady Gaga shilling for a watch and not one but two additional auto-playing videos. So the hypocrisy of the review accusing Greta Van Fleet of being cogs in a larger corporate money grab is pretty hilarious. (Condé Nast acquired Pitchfork in 2015.)

The review’s main critique of the band is the most obvious one–that they’re a bad derivative of Led Zeppelin–which of course they are. I think the difference in the author’s opinion and mine is how much you think being derivative is fodder for an overwrought dressing down of the entire project.

Let me lead with this–I’m a fan of Greta Van Fleet. I think they’re fun to listen to, about half the songwriting is good, and I appreciate any band that makes rock music popular again.

Robert Plant was asked about the band and said “They are Led Zeppelin I”, which is far too generous. I think almost everyone (myself included when I first heard them) is guilty of conflating a similar vocal style and guitar tone as “the second coming of Led Zeppelin” (my words to a friend when I recommended them). Led Zeppelin, even if only using their first record for comparison, was more creative, dynamic, and had better songwriting. And the difference between the musicianship of the drummers (as a drummer) requires its own paragraph.

I was never a huge fan of John Bonham, precisely for what I considered a lack of finesse and dynamism. I was taught how to play the drum kit by playing along to a lot of studio drummers from the ’70s. But I have, over time, revised my opinion. Greta Van Fleet’s drumming, however, lacks any dynamics whatsoever. Every time a drumstick hits anything it’s the exact same volume.

So there are some critiques of Greta Van Fleet. But I’ve still listened to both their records many times over. It’s fun, proper rock music. They’re really young; I can forgive many sins for youthfully enthusiastic, earnest music that I can enjoy listening to without thinking too much about it.

If you want to have a laugh at Greta Van Fleet’s expense, just watch Jake Kiszka get his hair stuck on his guitar in the middle of this 10x too-long guitar solo.

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