Thursday, March 14, 2013

First Listen :: Van Susans

Words: David Beech

Bromley quintet Van Susans have gone from strength to strength following the release of their 2012 d├ębut 'Paused in the Moment', which earned them support from the likes of XFM and BBC6 music. Drawing on a number of different influences, including Jimmy Eat World and Jack's Mannequin amongst others, it's easy to see how the band have come to sound like they do. Melodic and radio-friendly instrumentation serves as the backdrop for candid lyrics that show singer Olly Andrews wears his heart firmly on his sleeve at all times.

You'd be forgiven for tarring the Van Susans with the emo brush. After all, with influences such as theirs, and lyrics that uphold such emotion, what else can they be? Their Facebook page describes them as pop-rock; something that their shiny veneer and all round accessibility makes a pretty accurate if not ambiguous description.

'Bricks Not Sticks or Straw' is perhaps the least acoustic of the band's songs featured online. A piano melody runs throughout, a feature on all the tracks, and really lifts the song. Here, the band sound like a particularly polished college-rock band in the vain of Everclear or Third Eye Blind just without the occasional moments of roughness that make the aforementioned stand out. 'Served Cold' begins with some excellent guitar work before Andrews vocal part kicks in, sounding maturer and more sure of himself in this track than any others really benefits the song, which sounds as if it's drawn it's influence from Celtic folk music more than the bands listed on their Facebook.

A sleeker, more melodic approach to the band's music would be 'Fireworks' which is reminiscent of short-lived English band, Go:Audio, in pretty much every respect. The lyricism, as I've said before, is open and honest but it isn't breaking any boundaries. There are obvious rhymes littered throughout most of the songs which isn't strictly a bad thing, it's just a little too straightforward for my liking.

Van Susans are the kind of band that will garner plenty of fans but they won't be without their critics either. The music they make is clean, crisp and polished. There's no sense of immediacy, nothing raw about the emotion that goes in to it. While this doesn't alter their music any way as such, there needs to be something more to it than a polished veneer for it to resonate more.

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