Van Susans – Paused In The Moment
Released: 04/06/2012 on Beatnik Geek Records
If I were to sum up Paused In The Moment in one word, it would simply be 'sweet'. Van Susans' debut album is full of songs touched by the naïve innocence of youth, and while at times this can be a little overpowering, on the whole it makes for an utterly charming album.
It's difficult to classify Van Susans' music as being of one genre or another, as there's a fairly diverse array of songs on the album. 'Stepping Stones' and 'What It Is To Lose' draw influence from American pop rock, with the former being reminiscent of Less Than Jake-style ska punk. It's a fantastically uplifting song and interprets American punk rock attitude in a gentler, very British way. Other songs on the album are similarly poppy and upbeat, in particular lead single 'Bricks Not Sticks Or Straw', which kicks off the album with its infectiously cute melody and is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. And then there's 'Popo', which is irritating, silly and I want to hate it, but I just can't get it out of my head.
Other parts of Paused In The Moment, such as 'Fireworks' and 'Disappear', are more easily described as piano-based stadium rock. There's also a strong English folk feel running throughout many of the tracks, particularly 'The Road' and 'Served Cold'. The latter is so different that it almost sounds out of place on this album, yet it's one of the strongest tracks on the album, with elements of country rock and even Latin thrown in, and darker, more aggressive lyrics. These more anthemic tracks are where Van Susans are able to fully show off just how talented they really are. It's also great to hear a band incorporate keyboards and a violinist in a non-gimmicky fashion, and the result is a simplicity that seems strangely unique in today's music scene.
Throughout the album there's definite feeling that this is a band going through a transition. It's clear that they've come on leaps and bounds from last year's EP We Could Be Scenery, but there's still a sense that they've got some growing up to do. While the band claim that it doesn't really have a set theme, it feels to me like an album concerned with the changeover between being a teenager and becoming an adult. 'Notice Me' is very much a teenage song, and consequently is my least favourite track. I'm sure there will be teenagers who see it as the soundtrack to their life, but anyone older may find it lyrically a little clumsy and just a bit too twee. The same could be said for 'Don't Get Me Wrong' – however this is held up by a much stronger melody, and its placement as the final track of the album makes for a pleasingly wistful closer.
One of the highlights of Paused In The Moment is 'If I Succeed', a stripped back track that shows off lead singer Olly Andrews' heartfelt vocals beautifully. Both this and 'Served Cold' are the most grown up and accomplished songs on the album. 'If I Succeed' has a brutal honesty to it that tugs at the heartstrings in a way that no other song does, whereas 'Served Cold' hints at a darker, more angry side to Van Susans. The raw emotion and lyrical maturity that these display make them two of the best tracks that Van Susans have released so far, and I hope that this is the direction that the band continue to take - exploring deeper and darker subject matter, while still hopefully retaining the sense of fun that makes them such a joy to watch live.
Rather than being a groundbreaking debut, Paused In The Moment is one of those albums that makes you more curious and excited to hear what will come next from the band. It's sweet, sincere, oddly life-affirming stuff, and is proof that sometimes in music, going back to basics can be far more interesting than any amount of bizarre experimentation. I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked this album, and I think other people will be too.
Turn On: Stepping Stones, If I Succeed, Served Cold
Turn Off: Notice Me