A Fleet of Mixed Reviews

Since rolling out of the small town of Frankenmuth, Michigan (there is an entire article to be written on the greatness of this town’s name), Greta Van Fleet has been a band rocked by either exhilarated praise or scathing scrutiny. Made up of three brothers and a practically adopted fourth, the group skyrocketed to popularity rather quickly throughout 2017 and 2018. The band is deeply rooted with classic rock tones and themes. One of their most popular songs, “Highway Tune,” opens up with a subtle blues-rock guitar trot, which slowly builds to an explosion from the lead singer (Josh Kiszka) that leaves listeners eager for the rest of the song to get underway. Their sound is undoubtedly nostalgic, but my guess is that if you’ve decided to read this article, I don’t need to go on yammering about who this band draws similarities from. GVF sounds nearly identical to Led Zeppelin.

This has become a topic of heated debate in critical reviews, reddit pages, subreddit pages, barber shops, bedrooms, and small caves in Indonesia. Everyone has an opinion on this latest modern rock band. Either people love their groovy guitar licks and wailing vocals, or wish the 70’s wannabes would go eat their avocado toast and blow dust off their “vintage” record players. In terms of esteemed critical reviews however, the opinions usually fall with the latter.

PopMatters published a review describing GVF’s debut album as “…some reductive hippie bullshit, an idea so devoid of understanding of the issues creating the western world’s current level of polarization that it’s insulting.” This is not even the worst the band received from critics. A fantastically creative and rather bludgeoning review by Pitchfork says: “Greta Van Fleet sound like they did weed exactly once, called the cops, and tried to record a Led Zeppelin album before they arrested themselves.” The review spends much of its focus on the look of the band, how “garish” they are, and how they have “…mollycoddled every impulse of late-60’s rock’n’roll…”.

While I find most of the reviews’ snarks to be rather hilarious and mostly on point, these articles seem to miss the key question the general population wonders before hitting “one-click purchase” on Amazon: Does this band sound good?

Yes, GVF looks like the 70’s section of a thrift store had a buy-one-get-one sale, but they undoubtedly kick sonic ass. Their bluesy tunes inspired me to quickly search tour dates and purchase tickets to a live show for the first time in my life. Countless friends that I have introduced to this band instantly want an album. Strange how they didn’t ask to see cell samples of the band members to carbon date the Michigan group.

That’s because music is about enjoying a band’s sound.

In this day and age, the Billboard top 100 songs are populated with rap, pop, hip hop, and the occasional country song that fires up Florida fraternities before playing beer die. As a younger-than-a-millennial individual, I often find myself outside of the musical bubble most of my peers have been drawn to. This old school sound, with new school rockers that could be my TA’s, is exactly what I was looking for after thinking about how cool it would be to see live shows by the likes of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and countless others.

I found GVF the refreshing power slide that this generation of music needed. They may be ordering their clothing from a Woodstock Halloween catalog and making you wonder if you left Zeppelin IV in your 8-track player before turning on Spotify, but is that a reason to not give GVF a listen? This rock group isn’t pretending to be anything but a band that requires little more than an outlet to construct its sound. They do not need a backing track, sound loops, backup dancers, or autotune. GVF delivers soul sparking sound without the added hogwash that comes with a majority of the music groups today. GVF may sound just like Led Zeppelin, but isn’t Led Zeppelin fucking great?

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