Van She – Idea of Happiness
It’s inappropriate to say that it’s been a long time between drinks for Van She. In the time between breakout debut album V back in 2008 and current release Idea of Happiness, there has been a financial crisis, three Lady Gaga albums, numerous Guns N’ Roses line-ups and too many Kings of Leon tours. In music industry terms, it’s a lifetime.
Even though they’ve kicked on under the DJ guise of Van She Tech for some time since, for any band to survive being off the scene for this long, it would take a mammoth approach to ensure their sophomore album wasn’t a stab in the dark. What tends to happen on Idea of Happiness is a familiar trend to what we’ve seen with the latest releases from brethren Cut Copy and Pnau – safety. Whereas their debuts were electric, divisive and brilliant in execution, their latest releases have been placid and lacking distinction.
If, however, this is meant to be as chilled as it is, then it comes up trumps. Why the band would wait four years and slowly creep back into consciousness with soft tropical tones when V left so many waiting for their rock undertone to shock the pop out of their electro.
The title track reintroduces us to the band as we knew them – punchy, layered and conclusive with their scattered beats. Harnessing Strange Talk and Neon Indian in sound, there is much to like, yet it alludes little to the ‘tropicality’ of tracks Calypso and Jamaica. However, somehow the latter actually makes the odd electro sunset disco-ness sound incredibly good, with a clear mix of ideas coming together well.
Instrumental effort Radio Waves I is the waiting-room music you’d hear waiting at Daft Punk’s surgery clinic, with Radio Waves II soundtracking your drift off into the sunset as an outpatient. Sarah has a lot of promise but never breaks out of its simplicity, something the rest of the album fights hard to prevent happening. The slight lift in tempo to You’re My Rescue gives hope, but Coconuts throws us back to a Miami Vice-like setting that fails to recede thereafter.
Closer We Move On shows a depth and difference that would’ve thrived elsewhere, but by now it’s too late – the pina colada is firmly in hand and the shades ain’t going anywhere.
There was a time when you could pick up V and it just sounded different. Listening to Idea of Happiness doesn’t quite feel the same, but reclining in your chair thinking about summer before staring at yourself in the mirror thinking about how cool you should be gives you an approximation.
A lot will be said of Van She becoming too easygoing, but when considered at an arms-length from their previous work – which really was so long ago it shouldn’t be compared – Idea of Happiness is an album many more people will enjoy.
Standout Tracks: Idea of Happiness, Jamaica
Summary: Van She were once distinct, but are now swimming hard in a pack containing all of Australia’s various poptastic electro boys. Whilst Idea of Happiness won’t allow it to break out hard, it will prep the band’s move further away from oblivion and back into summer playlists.