Van She, composed of bassist/vocalist Matt Van Schie and three others not called Van She, are a synth-pop band from Sydney, Australia and signed to Modular recordings (Wolfmother, Tame Impala.) However unlike their label mates, whose retro fantasies revolve around Cream and Buffalo Springfield, Van She owe more to the sounds of the early 80s than the late 60s. Their 2009 debut album, simply called ‘V’ earned them comparisons to MGMT and Empire of the Sun, so it’s no surprise that ‘Idea of Happiness’ has been timed for a release at the height of summer. Unfortunately here in Britain, inclement summer weather is the only thing more predictable than many of these tracks and they’re no substitute for eight hours of Vitamin C.
Sometimes the sun does peak through the clouds however. And when it does, ‘Idea of Happiness’ could be the album to drop straight into your stereo. With its bouncy synth line and ecstatic handclaps Calypso is the song that should be playing as your yacht pulls into a harbour somewhere on the French Riviera. It’s a little cheesy but impossible to hear and not want to party, and best of all, amidst the toe-tapping choruses it’s knowing enough drop in the line like ‘music is a scene, and you know it keeps repeating’ as they artfully pilfer Duran Duran’s best pickup lines.
With tracks called Jamaica and Coconuts much of ‘Idea of Happiness’ attempts to offer an astonishingly literal escapism. The watery synths on the former give way to strummed soft-rock acoustic guitar whilst the latter uses kettle drums and recorded seagulls to evoke palm-lined beaches. Subtlety is not just a dirty word but one that has been locked in a chest and buried on one of Van She’s beloved tropical islands.
Having remixed Feist, Ladyhawke and New Young Pony Club under the banner of Van She Tech, the group should be perfectly capable of hopping over to the other side of the recording desk but the production on ‘Idea of Happiness’ insists on buffing every song until it’s as shiny as Boy George’s forehead. Thus Van She’s world can be a rather wearing one to be immersed in, as if it’s permanently 45 degrees out and you’re not allowed in the shade.
Hooks, melodies and lyrics are all garishly signposted and even a song entitled Tears is smothered under the weight of glossy synths.
Today’s forecast: Signs of brightness early on but growing dull later.