Now Reading
Greta Van Fleet—Black Smoke Rising or Smoke and Mirrors?

Do I object to long-haired teenage rockers picking 1960s Gibson SGs and screaming haunting melodies into their bandana-clad microphones?

Absolutely not. It’s great. In an era of quantized drum machines and pitch-corrected voices layered track by track into a pop hit formula designed by Tesla-driving industry executives, a group of brothers from Michigan playing loud-and-proud rock is refreshing, to say the least. 

I appreciate the slight tempo fluctuation, the nuanced imperfections and the preference given to sheer guttural power over pristine, in-tune vocals. Greta Van Fleet feels real and sounds real, but is it actually real?

What I mean is, is the intent behind it real. It doesn’t take a Led Zeppelin pundit to point out the similarities between these millennial Coachella stars and the original rock deities. It’s a cookie-cutter copy for more than a few tracks—an Easy Bake Oven version of the real thing. Fun for someone who hasn’t cooked in a real oven yet, but a play-time fantasy nonetheless.

And that leads me to the real conflict I run into whenever contemplating Greta Van Fleet: they don’t admit it.

In all of the radio interviews and online videos I have watched, when asked about their inspirations they never once even mention the name Led Zeppelin, as if they would burst into flame and their grand mirage would be over as soon as they finished uttering the last syllable. 

It’s a tribute act. A modern-day continuation of an iconic sound. And I would have absolutely no problem enjoying it if they just admitted that. The fact that they don’t acknowledge it makes it seem ingenuous.

Nothing about the band is original—not the look or the sound. No matter how many beaded pseudo-Native American vests they drape over their lanky torsos, they will never turn into Robert Plant. But he actually likes them.

See Also

When I watched the video of Plant himself teasing the group, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Finally, here was the man himself delivering the almighty verdict.

“Beautiful little singer… I hate him.” Plant says with a devilish smile.

After hearing Plant describe the voice that was ‘Borrowed from somebody he knows very well,’ the admiration was clear, and everything was okay. I guess cheating is a little better if the person you’re copying from is cool with it too.

So there it is. Decide for yourself. I still have some issues with the band, and I will enjoy the original more any day, but does it still feel good to blast Black Smoke Rising on the radio with the windows open? You better believe it does. And if it’s good enough for Robert Plant, it’s good enough for me.

© 2019 Avidity Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top