Review Summary: The trendiest band in the country finally match their style with some substance.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of Australian band Van She, you’ll appreciate the difficulty of actually taking them seriously. Decked out in the kind of clothes even Rick Astley would have cringed at in his heyday, they pushed this even further on their debut EP, a ghastly tribute to Countdown
glory days where the only thing cheesier than the synth lines were the lyrics themselves.
Three years after that, however, it’s an almost entirely different story. They are still undeniably fashion victims, yet the music has taken a significantly sharp turn in the right direction. V
is energetic, ambitious and versatile; a snapshot of, and subsequent soundtrack to, Australian city nightlife. You will certainly enter the record doubtful, but the band makes every effort to keep you entertained throughout the 45 minutes you spend with them.
It is hard to pin down Van She to a certain sound on V
. Some elements to each of the songs are consistent throughout. Vocalist Nick Routledge’s breezy pop harmonies immediately come to mind; so too does the confident, distinctive backbeat, provided by drummer Tomek Archer. The musical environments that said elements are surrounded by, however, vary significantly throughout. The layered, dynamic build-ups of lead single “Cat and the Eye” and closing number “A Sharp Knife” find the band at their catchiest, with assertive big hooks and a near-perfect mix of both natural and synthesized sounds.
juxtaposes this with straightforward rollicking grooves, such as the spaced-out funk of “It Could Be the Same” and the buzzing alternative rock of album highlight “The Sea”, packed with an impressive drum beat and distorted electro guitar. “Virgin Suicide” provides further contrast from its peers on the record by stripping the sound back to lush acoustic guitar and a dreamy shoegaze backdrop- in turn proving to be one of the stronger cuts from the album.
Even when the band’s past comes to haunt them in the form of their first-ever single “Kelly” from back in 2005, the band flesh out the song in a very stylish re-recording that is just as retro-sounding as before, yet does not sound as forced and artificial as it once did. It’s certainly miles away from the song that Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon once described as “the one song I never want to hear again”.
Perhaps it is not the variety of sounds that are found on V
that are its best asset, but how well Van She pull it all off. Given, the songs are at times a little too refined and tightly structured, occasionally restricting the band from going the distance. However, when the band present you with a potential hit (“Cat and the Eye”, “Strangers” and “Changes”), the charm and appeal of them is practically irresistible. Despite a few average tracks along the way (the irritating filler of “Temps Mort” and the lagging Tears for Fears tribute “Sunbeams”), some below average lyricism (Both apple and
orange juice are mentioned somewhere in “Changes”) and the keyboards occasionally going into overkill (granted they’re a synth-pop band, but it wouldn’t kill them to have the guitar up a little louder), the band don’t drop the ball once here.
There appears to be new-found purpose to what Van She are doing. With a handful of high-octane numbers that could well garner a new legion of fans, Van She are out to impress and prove all of their past critics wrong. Many bands are afraid to make the next step into trying new things and fulfilling their potential as musicians and songwriters. V
, however, is the sound of a band that is willing to take that step.