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The Blue Van – The Art of Rolling

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment

TVT Records, 2005

One of the great things about buying one dollar bands is getting other one dollar albums by the band.  I reviewed the Blue Van’s 2006 record “Dear Independence” and thought it was a great surprise from a bunch of Danish rockers, so in this case I managed to get their debut album.  This could go one of two ways.  In one instance, the debut album could be worse than the second record due to shoddy production or meandering direction of interest.  The other possibility is that the debut album is a near match to the sophomore effort, meaning the band decided not to change anything (and thus get pegged as ‘limited’ or ‘stuck’).  Really, for a buck I wouldn’t mind the consistency.  Now that I think of it, there is a third tack that the band could have taken, and that was to change their sound completely.  So, ulp, I could have purchased the band’s initial love of covers of Danish traditional songs, a misguided attempt at modern Danish disco, or recordings of actual blue vans driving around a parking lot.  Now you know that there truly is a lot of danger involved as a bargain bin music reviewer.  I live on the edge… of taste!

Well, I lucked out.  It turns out that this record sounds very similar to their follow up album, though it seems to actually have more energy.  The opener of “Word From the Bird” is a warm cacophony of guitar, drums, and organ with vocalist Steffen Westmark’s ceiling-touching efforts completing the scene.  Even though it’s just over two minutes in length, “Product of DK” and “I Remember the Days” seamlessly continue the romp.  These early songs, as well as the rest of the two to three minutes rockers spread throughout the record, easily emit a sense of having a real good time.

As the tunes continue their rousing level to “The Remains of Sir Maison” (yet another good rock song), one begins to wonder if the Blue Van will ever take it down a notch.  You may say “Hey!  When should anyone ever wish for the party to end?”  I agree with that, and yet the continuation of the same level of volume and excitement can work against a band if the songs all blend together.  Westmark’s voice continues to reach the high register, the organ is constantly present, and the cymbals never seem to cease reverberating in my ear.  For five songs in a row, the Blue Van make a case for an amazing band, but one will more likely be left with just that impression more than a favorite song in particular.  Some diversity helps appreciate the band’s talents further.

It almost seems that the band knew it had gone on a little too long with the same old thing, as the Blue Van suddenly veers into the leisurely “Baby, I’ve Got Time” where Westmark relates his hesitancy to hurry out of the warm confines of a bar with his girl.  The light electronic piano introduction to “The Bluverture” reminds me of a Beatles song, but then it turns into a dramatic instrumental that could be used in “Kill Bill, part 3” if ever a movie was going to be made.  It’s a curiously interesting interlude to the bombastic nature of the record, which thankfully allows some pause to soak in what the band had completed up to that point.  Then, of course, it’s back to the party.

“Revelation of Love” and “What the Young People Want” are par for course, but “Mob Rules” at least tries to invoke a bluesy swing before erupting in the second half of the song.  The final song of “New Slough” is probably what the band could have done at the beginning of the record in that it’s eight minutes of sheer rock out.  Why make five songs that sounds somewhat similar when you can make one really long one?  Granted, a long one with such stomach-churning lyrics as “1-2-3, I’d like to look at thee” and “I’m a rebel with a cause/but I ain’t no Richie Rich”.  I know these guys are from Denmark, but reading around a bit it seems that the Danish start learning the English language in the third grade or so.  Okay, so they stink at lyrics, but I suppose if one didn’t care what Westmark was screaming out then this record serves nicely as a fine boost of rock ‘n roll energy.

The Blue Van has an immediately musical website (as in, make sure your speakers aren’t too loud) and a potentially musical MySpace page.  Check out their new stuff on either site … it sounds good.

Whenever I give a Golden Dollar to a band, I always keep an eye out to see how that band is doing.  Even if this was a record that was released before “Dear Independence”, I am still excited that such a band exists in Denmark.  They must (should) be loving these guys over there.  I’m not sure if the Blue Van will ever make it over to the States that often, but if their new album “Love Shot” is any indication of how good they are now, the group should at least pop over to open for someone like the Black Keys.  They’ll likely get pegged as some kind of posthumous garage rock revivalists that are trying to pick up the remains of the Hives’ efforts, but I bet the crowd will love them.  I look forward to the next Blue Van record that comes my way.

The Blue Van – Dear Independence

September 2, 2009 1 comment

The Orchard, 2006blueVan

Alright, if you haven’t noticed by now, I like listening to rock n roll primarily.  I promise to get to a few of the other types of music (once I figure out what those are) soon after this review.  I picked up this record at the Salvation Army due to its nifty album cover and the fact that it came in a paper slipcase.  This wasn’t some kind of toss off from the nineties …extraneous album packaging got big in the past decade!  I was also disappointed at the fact that someone stole a few NOW discs from their cases, so I wanted to save this one from those nasty people.

So hey, this upbeat blues rock band from the infrequently heard from land of Denmark put together a snappy debut record that should get a few more listens by the public.  True, not many have heard of a band that gave itself a rather drab band name (similar to ‘The Dead Bug’ or ‘The Tall Tree’ of hohum-edness).  However, the fresh vocals from Steffen Westmark and the upbeat musicianship from the rest of those Dutch band members give this entire disc a real sense of warmth.  Songs like “Keep Me Running” and “Momentarily Sane” are definite foot stompers that will pick up most moods that are a little off.  Even a softer tune like “Don’t Leave Me Blue” has a fantastic chorus that sounds exceptionally smooth amidst the light guitar work and steady drums.  In truth, there aren’t any glaring clunkers on this entire album, yet it’s merely a matter of taste whether one happens to like the sound of these guys.

Unfortunately the group hasn’t made an album since this one and I haven’t found any information on whether or not they’re still together.  Three years is a long time without a record, and I imagine that if they do return with a new record it’ll very likely sound different than this effort.  Hopefully it’ll still have the peppy energy that “Dear Independence” brought on.

Check these guys out at their website as well as their MySpace page.

I gotta give these guys a golden dollar for simply the front to back great sound they’ve put forth. Way to go, Dutch dudes.

OneDollarPin

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