A bunch of rock albums to review…!
Let me know your thoughts below.
Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018)
Greta Van Fleet turned up last year to both praise and scorn. Their almost too on-the-noise Led Zeppelin influence resulted in many ‘which band?’ tests, with some unable to tell the difference. Everything down to guitar tone, drum tone and especially the super-high, Robert Plant-esque vocals of Josh Kiszka, Greta Van Fleet are poised to be the 21st Century’s Led Zeppelin…or are they?
Anthem of the Peaceful Army opens with ‘Age of Man’, an ambitious song for a band that almost has to prove itself to naysayers as not merely being a Led Zeppelin rip-off. It’s a surprisingly effective epic, which shows an improved and mature songwriting from where their previous EPs had left off. Unfortunately, its followed with the standard rock affair ‘The Cold Wind’, but thankfully rescued with the head-banger/Zeppelin II-esque ‘When the Curtain Falls’. The next track ‘Watching Over’ adds another mid-tempo epic, yet Houses of the Holy-esque track.
The second half of the album is a fairly standard rock affair, and by then you’ve solved the formula (bar ‘Brave New World’). And one of the biggest problems that you’ll find is Josh Kiszka’s overuse of his vocals. It depends if you liked the way Robert Plant swung his. Anthem of the Peaceful Army sounds like a band successfully channeling Led Zeppelin albums II, III and Houses of the Holy. I say ‘successfully’ because I’m not sure if thats a good thing as its all been done before.
I think the band has risen above expectations, but I’d be curious to see where they went next. Will they separate themselves from the Zeppelin comparison?
Perhaps we’ve yet to see the band emerge as something less derivative.
Disturbed, Evolution (2018)
I never thought I’d listen to another Disturbed album in my life. Every time I revisited the band, it was the same syncopated beats, ‘ah! ah!’ vocal hooks and guitar sounds. I’m not surprised when I say that the band has evolved in Evolution, but its not in the leaps and bounds you’d expect.
Opener ‘Are You Ready?’ sounds like something from their first album The Sickness. It’s got a big 80s chorus and the usual ‘Ah! ah!’s ‘No More’ follows on with the same kind of Disturbedisms. ‘A Reason to Fight’ is a break into a ballad that would do nicely on Triple M. ‘In Another Time’ sounds similar to the James Bond theme but then descends into the usual Disturbedisms.
‘Stronger On Your Own’ is a slight departure as a southern-rock head-banger that turns into the usual Disturbed chorus. ‘Hold Onto Memories’ is another acoustic ballad which thankfully doesn’t end up in the usual Disturbed territory. ‘Watch You Burn’ is another refreshing departure from the usual, as is ‘Already Gone’.
Disturbed is a band that has never evolved in sound – sounding lost somewhere in the early 2000s. The production is always super slick, the songs are basically formulaic, bar some of the attempts at something new in the acoustic tunes. They remind me of KoRn – a band that really only plays to variations of a theme: sometimes departing to do something new, but mostly sticking to what’s tried and true.
Kurt Vile, Bottle It In (2018)
I didn’t care much for Vile’s previous release, b’lieve I’m goin’ down… I felt his best and most interesting work came with his partnership with Courtney Barnett, Lotta Sea Lice, where the songwriting popped and had a little more dynamic. Something about his solo efforts in his Tom Petty/Bob Dylan-vibe doesn’t connect with me.
‘Loading Zones’ is a familiar Vile opener, with an interesting back-half and use of a talk box. It recalls his former (and superior) band, The War on Drugs. ‘Bassackwards’ has an interesting use of reverse delays (ah, nice one), and a stream-of-conciousness meditation on friendships. ‘One Trick Ponies’ follows the usual formula of a jam that continues with mumbling lyrics. ‘Rollin with the Flow’ is something like a Z-era My Morning Jacket song. ‘Check Baby’ deploys a heavy synth, but does not develop much into anything. ‘Bottle It In’ is a 10-minute epic which does little to justify its runtime, however ‘Skinny Mini’ does a little bit more with its bloated runtime with more interesting layering.
Maybe the appeal of Kurt Vile is his zany lyrics, or his guitar playing (yes, he is a talented player!). But this album feels incredibly self-indulgent, with several songs reaching 10 minutes with little to justify such an extreme length. It sounds like a group of half-baked ideas with little-to-no dynamic shifts (which is a problem I have overall with his songs). Maybe they are mesmerising to some, but to myself, they are plain tedious.
Maybe with the addition of Courtney Barnett there is a little more focus in the songwriting, which leads to better outcomes for Kurt Vile.