Saturday, 30 April 2011

Van Susans - We Could Be Scenary E.P.

Note: This review is a little shorter than my normal rambling diatribes due to the fact that it was written for publication in the excellent Wasted! magazine, a monthly online magazine/webzine based in Kent covering alternative music and culture. Find them at

Normally, I get cynical when a band has critics buzzing around it and a rapid ascend to stardom is beckoning, like a magical stairway to heaven descending from the ether. Often there's the stink of label promotion about it; either that or the NME trying to tell the kids what's hip today and trying to disguise the fact that what we're actually listening to is vapid dross with all the depth of a teaspoon. But the Van Susans, who are on such a steady rise to prominence as we speak, are a bit of an oddity in today's rock music scene. The fact that they're not a metalcore band with floppy fringes, or an indie band with chequered shirts and ironic lyrics, would probably be enough anyway to guarantee them unique status. In fact, as one spin of their 'We Could Be Scenary' E.P. proves, they are a fascinating cocktail of well-crafted, folksy roots-rock that's very different to what you're likely to hear doing the rounds on the circuit. It's not often a band disarms my cynicism so deftly and swiftly, but the Van Susans are one such band.

Opener 'Cha Cha Bang' is a curveball, as it's the most rocking and intense of the five tracks, with buzzing guitars bolted to an emphatic chorus. Nevertheless, in amongst the crunching electric chords, the organic, emotive heart of this band beats strongly, and is allowed free reign on the remaining tracks. It's rare in modern rock music that reviewers get to talk about such things as layers and textures, but the Van Susans work hard to craft a multi-layered music-scape, with pianos, strings, harmonised vocals and acoustic and electric guitars all flitting in and out, and sometimes all combining at once. More impressively, no matter how many instruments are in play at any one time, subtlety and balance is retained, and the sound is never overwhelming to listen to, which makes a change from the often over-produced fare we are more used to. Penultimate track 'Plans' is the zenith, a glorious celebration of their powers of warmth, melody and craft, coming off sounding like a anglicised version of Nell Bryden - and considering how much I love Nell Bryden, folks, that's a monster complement.

In conclusion, on this evidence, the Van Susans are one of the first bands in years to fully deserve the hype that they're receiving. They're a refreshing blast of imagination and soul in a music landscape gone stale, and a band to really believe in.

Rating: 85%

Standout Tracks: 'Cha Cha Bang', 'Plans'.

Record Label: Beatnik Geek Records

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