Greta Van Fleet Didn't Save Rock - They Confirmed its Death
Just listened to the Greta Van Fleet album From the Fires. I purposely stayed away from the hype machine behind Greta Van Fleet because I'm a jaded old man. But after I heard the Safari Song on local college station WBWC, I had to investigate the album for myself.
First of all, it's a really, really good album. The comparisons to Led Zeppelin are obvious and warranted. Once you get past the similarities, you can focus on the differences.
Greta Van Fleet is bluesier, slower, and darker than their forefathers, which is fine, everyone has to carve out their own path. By the end of the record, Black Smoke Rising's soaring melodies had won me over. Greta Van Fleet had convinced me that they were living avatars of Rock's retro sound. Energetic and cleanly mixed, you can tell that the lead singer's voice isn't shredded and the rhythm section is on their game, unlike many of their (much) older peers. The band created a nice classic rock album. In 2018.
What they didn't do was save Rock and Roll. They confirmed it was dead and let me explain.
The best example I can think of is the band Squirrel Nut Zippers. The year was 1996 and one of the best albums of the year was Hot. Not hot as in temperature, that was the name of the album. It was the apex of the Swing Revival, I knew swing was not to here to stay and the masses knew swing wasn't here to stay. Deep, deep down, the Zippers had to know that swing wasn't here to stay. Yes, SNZ are back in 2018 with a pretty good album, but even while the Zippers were popular, they only harkened back to a time when swing was king. They didn't change America back into a Swing Nation.
I remember the Brian Jonestown Massacre releasing great albums and old codgers came out of the woodwork to proclaim that Psychedelic Rock music was back. It wasn't. Again, don't get me wrong, their work conquered the constraints of time, but they did't change the cultural landscape. They had won a certain segment of fans and never made it to the mainstream. (Unless you count their epic documentary Dig!) The Brian Jonestown Massacre are back in 2018 with their 18th (?!?!) studio album called Something Else. It's the album I'm enjoying while I type.
I even remember a young Harry Connick Jr., he was the one to return pop standards back to the mainstream. "A young Frank Sinatra" some would say. Harry has now kind of abandoned his singing career in the form of American Idol judge and a self-titled Talk Show host, but he's still a semi-active crooner. He's doing a short stint at the Hollywood Bowl in September.
What I'm getting at is, Greta Van Fleet can milk their success into a delightful career, maybe even win over a younger set of fans. What they aren't doing is changing the landscape, which is....
Hip-Hop/R&B is alive and thriving.
Country (sadly) is alive.
And everything else has its niche, including Rock and Roll.
I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, I'm saying that's the way it is.
If you're thinking "for the love of god, Fred Hunt, please just stop writing about music. You suck."
I'll listen to that. I am way, way out of the key music demographics, I don't have my pulse on today's youth, and I don't understand the magical allure of Hamilton! Speaking of things that are out of touch, today Rolling Stone Magazine released their Top 100 Songs of the Century - So Far.
And it's bad. But the list emphasizes the point I'm trying to make.
Here are the top ROCK songs in the Top 20 of a ROCK MAGAZINE list.
18. Blackstar by David Bowie: Released after his 69th birthday, Blackstar was a depressing jazz/rock mashup. It was good, but Bowie died very shortly after its release.
10. Last Night by The Strokes: The Strokes should have been the next great thing. Instead they were the next self-indulgent band that liked to take long hiatuses.
6. Maps by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs: This song, Karen O, and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs are all very overrated.
3. Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes: Jack White is putting out great music today.
And no one pays attention.
The only one of those artists putting out great rock music today is Jack White. One artist out of Rolling Stone's Top 20. Is Rock and Roll in 2018 the equivalent of Swing in the 90's?
My new goal for Beacon of Speech isn't greatness, it's not being as bad as Rolling Stone.