Greta Van Fleet, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”

Greta Van Fleet
Anthem of the Peaceful Army
REPUBLIC
4/10

It must be strange for a band to not even have a debut album out, but already be praised by a variety of icons, from Elton John to Tom Hanks, and acknowledged by the legendary act that has influenced them most—which, in Greta Van Fleet’s case, is Led Zeppelin. Named after a resident of their hometown, Frankenmuth, Michigan, the quartet is composed of three brothers and one best friend—Josh, Sam, and Jake Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner—and they sound almost identical to the rock monolith they are constantly compared to. Truly, it’s hard not to connect the dots when the lead singer falls in and out of a fake British accent.

It’s undeniable that there is some talent here. Despite easy comparisons, Greta Van Fleet is providing…something clearly lacking in popular music right now, given their success. With grandiose guitar solos and serrated-knife slicing vocals, they’re reviving an epic sound of hope in order to, um, banish the demons of a fantasy world on their debut, Anthem of the Peaceful Army.

It’s difficult not to view this band as a straight gimmick, though. People admire them because they’re hungering for a bygone era of classic rock idols who wore leather pants accentuating their nether regions, and in this sense, GVF seem to pride themselves on being caricatures of their idols. The music industry, like history, repeats itself, which is why Greta Van Fleet feels deceptively refreshing—at least to talk about.

Anthem of the Peaceful Army is an impactful album in its own way, with its Mt. Everest wall of sound, but the band is biting off more than they can chew. Confusingly, it’s being considered a concept album: “It asks fairly large questions,” explains Sam, the youngest brother, in the band’s interview with Premier Guitar. “What are we doing to ourselves? What are we doing to our environment? What are we doing to each other? Why must there be hate? And why must there be greed and evil? I think it simply asks the question of why can’t we all be one? We’re all people. We all look up at the same sky, breathing the same air. We all come from the same place.” So, this is a concepts album—plural.

Even then, the topics chosen are clichés of light overcoming dark and love conquering all, while harnessing a mix of sci-fi and occult mythology (gotta love that classic Witch of Endor reference). Josh literally begs a woman to come back to him on “You’re the One,” only to later call her young, pretty, and evil; there’s so much patriarchal possession on this album it hurts.

Many of these lyrics feel like riddles, their rhetoric a mask of fool’s gold wisdom. It’s both ironic and twisted, using an old sound to sing about a new generation that projects truth and “pure” emotion. The nostalgia of these tracks is intoxicating, but what are they really saying? Nothing, nothing at all. 

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