“You’re on a roll my friends,” the opening words to the Van Susans debut record and it couldn’t be more true if they tried as the Bromley rockers debut sees them follow up their acclaimed EP to become one of the most underrated bands on the UK indie scene. ‘Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw’ is as hopeful and packed with childish fervour as the title suggests.
The Brits typical indie is just that, a couple of guitar wangles here and there, the odd piano and electro flourish, bass that does as it’s told, and a drum beat to keep it all in line. It’s also pleasantly surprising. Perhaps it’s the lush vocals or the arrangements, or perhaps it’s because of and not despite its simplicity that it is so charming. Nobody just does this anymore and from the average name to the average themes they’ve somehow become more than average.
WATCH // 'Fireworks'
‘Stepping Stones’ sounds like Billie Joe Armstrong singing with Bedouin Soundclash and has a lovely chorus of what could be the repetition of the word wanker, but isn't. As fun as that would be, luckily we're not quite dealing with that.
“I can’t find the words to tell you and I know this road is long, but when this is all over well I will carry on,” are just some of the generic lyrics that litter these tracks, it’s all very normal which is either because the Van Susans would be the worst dinner party guests in history or they’re trying too hard to be oh so relatable. I mean, of course they succeed in that ambition, these songs are targeting the masses and they fire a flaming arrow right through Radio 1’s heart. If you liked The Wombats or God forbid The Pigeon Detectives, then you should be all over this because they’re better, similar, but better…which granted wasn’t very hard to accomplish. They have that jaunty indie feeling that the charts love to heap praise on, and they also manage to have some soul, which makes the Van Susans one band you should be paying attention to.
‘What it is to Lose’ could have been picked out at random from the soundtrack to any teen movie from the past ten years. Between the high pitched plucky guitar and ‘fraught’ emotional core you can practically see the high school corridors and doomed couple in your head. Yes, they’re a band that’s full of life, young immature life (‘Popo’) which when it isn’t bordering on annoyance is really what gives this band an edge over the likes of the aforementioned chart sensations of yesteryear. You can picture the live energy as you play this album. It’s a record imbued with the passion you feel as a youngster and a song like ‘Rat Race’ is much more powerful because of these Ritalin fuelled fires. At times they even come across, dare I say it, jaded: “It’s a race against time and you will lose,” which is testament to their abilities as performers.
WATCH // 'Bricks Not Sticks or Straw'
This too though is the records biggest flaw. As easy and fun as their sound might be it’s nothing more than an act and the album even feels like a paint by numbers, a dummy’s guide to being a successful indie rock band.
‘If I Succeed’ is a surprisingly beautiful ode to love, friendship, loneliness, and failure. It’s stark and real and the vocals ache with pain as soft violins cut through the bitterness.
It’s an album that at first feels fake and overdone, but with repeated listening becomes a solid debut album that prepares both us and the Van Susans for whatever might be next.
Paused in the Moment is out September 24th on Beatnik Geek Records.
- Stepping Stones
- If I Succeed