Album Review: Van Susans – Paused in the Moment

By on Monday, 6th August 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

We’re in the eighth month of 2012, so it’s time to take stock, album-wise, of what has already been and what we might expect in the remainder of the year. Of everything I’ve listened to and reviewed up to this point, ‘Paused in the Moment’ from Van Susans is (and I suspect will be) the most diverse – and pleasantly so – album of the year. However, with diversity of tuneage comes more chances for you to be criticised, as you will read in a moment.

The debut album from Van Susans surprisingly doesn’t include any songs from their five-track EP ‘We Could Be Scenery’, which I reviewed last spring. I say ‘surprisingly’, because from my experience, even bands further along in their career will, predictably, pad their ‘new’ albums with EPs and singles already released to guarantee successful reception based on fan recognition. I am thinking there is one likely reason for Van Susans to not do this: they had moved so far away from ‘We Could Be Scenery’, maturing in their songwriting, and wanted to distance themselves from their previous release. Could be. Just conjecture, of course. It’s a calculated risk, but I think it’s one that paid off.

The obvious winners on this album are the two singles that start the album on a high note, ‘Bricks Not Sticks Nor Straw’ (video below) and ‘Fireworks’. The former has a humourous title, obviously taking its cue from the Three Little Pigs children’s story, but the song itself is nothing short of impressive. With a fab guitar solo by Ed Dullaway and Olly Andrew’s equally fab lyrics that could be interpreted either as a friends forever kind of anthem (as portrayed humourously in the promo video) or a “I’ll always be there for you” lover’s torch song. ‘Fireworks’ is a more conventional love song, with Rob Dullaway’s driving drums and the ivory tickling of Olly Groome.

Further investigation of ‘Paused in the Moment’ reveals more greatness. Although the word ‘pop’ usually prompts derision among most reviewers, I don’t think Van Susans’ brand of it is anything to turn your nose up at. Quite the contrary. This is pop that can be enjoyed by boys and girls, men and women of all ages. Anyone with an ear for a catchy melody, great lyrics and/or both is welcome here. The very short ‘What is To Lose’, with a staccato guitar line and show-stopping chords, is a bouncy, upbeat, poppy number. ‘Stepping Stones’ and ‘The Road’ see the band skirt the blurry lines between folk and pop, with jolly guitar and Andrews’ voice doing calisthenics up the scale. Seriously. He has what is not a falsetto but an upwards inflection that appears in the choruses, one that I first heard on ‘We Could Be Scenery’ and not only was totally okay with but actually found I loved.

Speaking of the EP, I’d say the closest one to that EP on here is ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, which Andrews explained to me was a song from his and drummer Rob Dullaway’s former band. A good explanation why it sounds like it could have easily fit on the EP then. Something that might be forgotten in listening to ‘Paused in the Moment’, especially if you haven’t been on the Van Susans bandwagon since the EP, is that this is a band with a great piano player in Groome. He doesn’t really get an adequate chance to shine until ‘If I Succeed’, which is his piano-playing, Andrews’ vocals and Holly McLatchie’s fiddling.

There are only a few moments where the album loses steam or its brilliance. The start for ‘Disappear’, for one, which is saved by its lead up to a much more engaging chorus. It’s also one of the longest songs here, nearly 4 minutes long. Overall, it’s just not as strong as the rest of the album. ‘Notice Me’ also falls down a bit in the lyrics department. ‘Popo’, while bordering on annoying in the melody and chorus departments, is a chance to laugh, showing a lighter touch than the rest of this album. If Savoir Adore can get a mildly irritating song on a laundry detergent advert, then Van Susans have an equally good a chance at doing the same with his. ‘Rat Race’, which the band is giving away as a free download as their unofficial anthem for this year’s Olympics, has a positive message about having the courage to go for your dreams. But the feeling I get from it is sorrowful for some reason; it could be the fiddle and piano, which sound mournful? Not sure.

Now, getting back to that “most diverse – and pleasantly so” plaudit at the beginning of this review. It’s hard to call this an all pop album, all rock album or an all anything album. There’s upbeat pop, folk pop, and heck, there is even what the band themselves consider them in country/western mode, ‘Served Cold’. I like it, it reminds me of the early days of I Dream in Colour, but I realise there are some people who just don’t like that genre. However, if you’re the kind of person who’s appreciative of good pop songwriting, or at the very least some memorable melodies, give this a spin. There’s a lot of like here on Van Susans’ debut album, indicating much potential in their future.

8/10

‘Paused in the Moment’, the debut album from Van Susans, is out now on Beatnik Geek Records.

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3 Responses

[…] which featured on their summer 2012 album release ‘Paused in the Moment’ (review here). With a story written by lead singer Olly Andrews and the video directed by Josh Porter, we follow […]

[…] version of their track ‘Served Cold’, first having appeared on their 2012 debut album ‘Paused in the Moment’. They’ll be releasing a promo video to go along with the new version of the song next week, […]

[…] Susans – ‘Paused in the Moment’ The Bromley band’s debut was released in 2012, but we recently gave away their latest single, […]

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