‘Starcatcher’ Is Inspiring Prog. Rock Proof That Greta Van Fleet Has Come Into Their Own

Releasing an album during the already history-making Barbenheimer weekend was maybe not the most strategic move on Greta Van Fleet’s part. However, the 10 tracks from the Michigan rockers hold up fairly well, so while the immediate excitement of this record’s release was muddled by the likes of Margot Robbie, Cillian Murphy, Ryan Gosling, and Florence Pugh, there’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the groovy nature of this foursome. (Not to mention that following up screenings of Oppenheimer and Barbie is the natural, chroniglical progression of eras. Christopher Nolan’s film is set predominantly in the thirties and forties, Greta Gerwig’s modeled Barbieland after the pastel design of the fifties, and Greta’s album would fit perfectly into the sounds of the late sixties and seventies.

It’s easy to say that Starcatcher is GVF’s best album since their Grammy-nominated debut, but that doesn’t cut it. The band has, in fact, matured in both persona and creativity. You can hear new, experimental licks. The stories captured in song feel true to these men and their experiences now rather than grasping at the emotional trials, tribulations, and tales of the rockstars before them. This record is the most intimate narrative fans have seen from the group. Few songs their catalog will ever hold a candle to “My Way, Soon” or “Safari Song” or even “Age of Machine,” but “Waited All Your Life,” the second track on the new LP, comes damn close. And if that miniature epic (which clocks in at four-and-a-half minutes) doesn’t do it for you, the promptly five-minute-long eighth number could be it. “The Archer” – not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s Lover-era deep cut – is a weighted take on lost love; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, occasionally death-defying, but always soul-crushing.

Coincidentally, the longest song on this album is also the most listened to thus far. “Meeting the Master,” at the time of this review, is closing in on 11 million streams on Spotify alone. It was a single release, but the rest of the singles leading up to the full length are trailing but not just one million or two, but five or more million. There is an attitude in this song, and much of the record altogether, that matches the attitude of a band who has more than officially become a modern rock entity, household name, and established touring band. Identity = made, cherished, understood, owned.

The artwork and overall style guide for this era of Greta Van Fleet is relatively stripped down – no massive build of an outside world, no mythical battle of transcendental forces (musical or otherwise), and no direct correlation to LPs before it. Starcatcher is wholly its own project, evocative and instinctual. It is not rushed, perfectly tracked and sleek in nature. (Just listen to album opener “Fate Of The Faithful” once, please.) The boys in the band have shed their rough-around-the-edges identity from their more youthful days half a decade ago. They no longer look like they are playing a part, visually or sonically. This is a band, sparking and shining, rocking and rolling, telling and true. Their album-based and on-stage candor is refreshing (albeit subtly masked by the Led Zeppelin comparisons that they are ever-so-slowly shaking off).

Starcatcher is a riveting, visceral, 42-minute experience; progressive and melodic in nature, paced with ease, and riddled with authentic attitude. Sure, Greta Van Fleet are still LedZep-esque, but is that such a bad thing? Taking your classic rock influences and their poignant instrumentals and distinct vocals and using it to shape your own sense of musical modernity and rockstar tendencies?