“We Could Be Scenery” is the début EP of Bromley Sextet Van Susans. Their sound is a melodic mixture of pop, punk and English folk. They sound like what would happen if Frank Turner had a side project not a solo career, or if Mumford and Sons got drunk in a bar with Scouting for Girls and signed a collaboration deal.
The first few bars of their opening track make it sound like a typically up beat punky pop song with only The Rembrandtsesque hand clapping to hint at the more folky aspects to come. The guitar takes a back seat to a more pronounced piano in the second track and is a better representation of the albums tone for it. Bones is the single and for good reason. It has a sincerity to it that raises it above the standard for the mainstream examples of the genre. It makes you believe that songwriters words are genuine, even if his sentiments aren’t exactly the most intelligent or mature.
Or the most original. Songs encouraging the audience to get out of bed and play or about how the long term plans of a young couple never come to fruition are reminders of the groups adolescence. But with youth comes an energy that lends itself to even the most dreary ballad in any other groups hands. Each track builds itself upon a slow beginning, turning into a volume pumping, voice raising anthem that rushes the adrenaline, taps the toes and nods the head. It’s just a shame some of the tracks take a while to get to this state.
That’s the big problem with Vans Susans. They could well be scenery. The title could have been a Freudian slip, an accidental self confession of their biggest shortcomings. They’re background music. For the vast majority of this quite by the numbers album they simply don’t do enough to grab the listener, to demand their attention, to pull them away from all of the other options out there for listening pleasure.
They are a band who have all the basics right but they never expand upon them. The melodies are great, the musicianship is excellent and the production values are surprisingly professional for band with nothing other than an independent label to boast; but it doesn’t come to much more than simply adequate if they don’t try for something more far reaching.