Once upon a time, Greta Van Fleet felt like the next big thing for rock music, the next “rock’s hottest ticket,” if you will (and she apparently is). Their Led Zeppelin-like sound inevitably caught their attention, and now, three albums in, the group has made a splash. Their latest album, Starcatcher, is a vast improvement over their previous album, but it still has a lot left in it.
To be clear, I am a fan (or “fetus,” as my cousins fan base calls them) of Greta Van Fleet. Their first full-length album, Anthems of a Peaceful Army, was the soundtrack to many memories of my freshman year in college. Aside from the nostalgia, I admired how the band blends the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Blues Traveller. Each track had an identity – some non-singles like “Brave New World” and “The New Day” stood on par with the album’s singles – something their previous two albums could not say.
If nothing else, Greta Van Fleet knows how to start (finish is a different story). “Safari Song” is the debut single from their first EP, From the Fires, and is one of the group’s biggest hits. Their first album (and still their best), Anthem of the Peaceful Army, opened with “Age of Man”.
But it was their second full-length album, The Battle at Gardens Gate, that set a new standard for the group by starting things off with “Heat Above”. The ambient organ opening with a full display of lead singer Josh Kiszka’s new vocal confidence builds to one of the group’s best songs. It was impossible for Greta Van Fleet to top “Heat Above” or “Safari Song,” but she did her best with “Fate of the Faithful.” It’s not nearly as memorable and only serves as the album opener equivalent of wallpaper.
However, this is a recurring issue. The biggest issue with the band is that they don’t have a distinct sound – that is, unless you want to state the obvious and call them a Led Zeppelin ripoff. Her last two albums have run into a problem where many songs sound alike, and in Greta Van Fleet’s case, it usually sounds like Jake Kiszka’s voice carries over from one song to the next. Seeing them live, the matter has increased further. I couldn’t tell you the difference between “the machine age” and “dream weights”.
But, let’s be honest, being compared to one of the greatest rock bands of all time shouldn’t be taken lightly. In the past, members such as Jake Kiszka Claimed Led Zeppelin was not a “huge influence” on his music. Sure, he acknowledges how huge the compliment is being compared to him, but still seems to be shying away from it. Running away from the problem makes it all the more awkward when your music continues to borrow from Robert Plant & Co.
That said, Greta Van Fleet always packs a gem or two into her albums. To say the least, The Battle at the Garden Gate was fierce, but “My Way, Soon,” “Light My Love,” and “Caravelle” are some of his best work. It simply gets tangled up with movies like “Built by Nations” and “The Weight of Dreams”.
On Starcatcher, his standout is “Meeting the Master”—the album’s lead single (and for good reason)—which begins with an ethereal guitar riff that channels the spirits of Jimmy Page and Cat Stevens. But for once, the song doesn’t rush into the anthemic climax — it builds before it hits its peak.
Fortunately, the band shows some self-awareness, and there’s no 10+ minute track to be found on Starcatcher. Their latest album has two fewer songs and is shorter at just over 20 minutes, which, in most cases, feels like a downgrade. In Greta Van Fleet’s case, less is more, and they never quite expose themselves as strongly as they did on their sophomore album. If anything, his greatest limitation is the lack of variety in his musical arrangements.
Starcatcher at least has “Runaway Blues,” which is nothing more than a segue, and “You’ve Waited Your Whole Life.” Both of those tracks detract from the sound a bit. I’ll also put out “The Falling Sky,” which takes on a blues sound similar to “Runaway Blues,” but no harmonica playing like Bob Dylan can justify the lack of that sound anywhere else on the album other than track two. … This is what gave prominence to songs such as “You Are the One” and “Mountain of the Sun” in the anthem of the Peacekeeping Force. It seems like we are light years away from those days.
Also, as much as the strength of Josh Kiszka’s voice has improved from album to album, there is almost no variety in his singing style. There is no real song like “Anthem” which allows him to try to sing in a way different from the Robert Plant style. Even “Light My Love” showed a little versatility on her last album. Starcatcher leaves us with incessant screams that hide behind the sound of guitars.
Greta Van Fleet hasn’t quite taken off in terms of her songs yet, and Starcatcher is no exception. Josh Kiszka has a lot of ambitious ideas as seen in his pre-show monologue that played over the loudspeakers on his last tour, but at times, he has a lot to say but the words to do so. does not unlock Not every songwriter can be as poetic as Bono, nor can they get the message across as silly as Paul McCartney, but it often feels like Josh is spitting words. It seems like the band wants to spread some very important message like world peace, but they make their lyrics so vague in the hopes that you’ll be mesmerized by the screams of passion without even trying to understand what they’re really about. What are in trying to say.
Should You Be Listening to Starcatcher?
Where does Greta Van Fleet go from here? The last track on Starcatcher is titled “Farewell for Now,” and though it’s probably the band’s cheeky way of saying goodbye to listeners when the album is over, perhaps the young group just needed a little down time. They’ve been touring for the past few years – and they’ve put together a stellar show between their last two albums and are preparing for their biggest tour ever, which will see them play major arenas including Madison Square Garden. However, his voice has stabilized.
I still applaud Greta Van Fleet’s efforts to save rock and roll, but if they want longevity then an album that really reinvents them might be in order. The group is very young, which works in their favour. It remains to be seen whether or not they actually decide to act on that. Starcatcher is a step forward from their previous album, but at least three steps back from their early work. They may have peaked with “Safari Song,” “When the Curtain Falls,” and “You’re the One.”
Starcatcher is available now.