The Vandas
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The Vandas


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"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

"8/10: The Vandas don’t do anything special – they just do it with a sense of commitment and pride that sets them above most bands trying to bump and grind their way through an honest Australian rock’n’roll sound. Produced by Hoss and GOD champ Joel Silbersher, the style here is engagingly raw but with plenty of meat on its ragged bones. Lead single “Know It All” could sit comfortably on the New York Dolls’ MySpazz page, with the horns adding a crappy but cool extra edge. The back story is that the band pumped out 15 tracks in a day as demos, then ended up using those recordings as the actual album. It shows, in a good way. This is rock the way it should sound – shambolic, energetic and exciting. The influences are obvious (Beasts of Bourbon, Easybeats, garage rock, etc), but the delivery is often enthralling."
Luke Anisimoff, Blunt Magazine – August 2008 - Blunt Magazine

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

"4 stars: Barbed beauties from honest – not earnest – Melbournians. Embarrassed because you like music made with real instruments? Is the sound of one more “beep” passing as music going to send you bonkers? Do fey, arch and epicane kidbands shit you to tears? Salvation, faithfull rockers, is at hand. Welcome, if you will, the Vandas. The fact that the Melbourne four-piece was named after Easybeats lead guitarist Harry Vanda should give the uninitiated some idea of what we’re dealing with here. Melodic, raw and all-Australian, the tunes on their debut album veer between pub-floor-stomping (‘Know It All’), hear-clutching (‘The Alarm’) and the sneeringly sardonic (‘So Happy Now’ – “He looks so happy now/You look so… stupid!”). But even when the sentiment swaps, the ballsy racket of Slow Burn is a grizzled-in-a-good-way insta-classic. Apparently the Vandas were trying to steer away from the country feel evident in their early EPs, but thankfully, twangs die hard. What do you expect when your lead singer sounds like the product of a menage a trois between Dylan, Tom Petty and Tex Perkins? The only beeps you’ll hear are the SMS alerts from your mates telling you how damned cool the Vandas are."
Tamara Sheward, Jmag – August 2008 - Jmag

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

"Album of the Week: The last song on The Vandas’ most recent release, the In the Morning EP, represented a departure from the band’s perfectly practised and polished country rock style. On that song, The Desert Sun, The Vandas lurched out of their finely crafted pop rock existence, and into a wandering, bleary-eyed psychedelic world. Like the Californian hippies of the 1960s realising that their long held dreams for world peace and a social hegemony built on trust and empathy were little more than acid-spiked departures that denied the self-obsessed reality of humanity, the band seemed to be on the edge of the journey that would lead them to another land, where hooks, riffs and melodies might be but a distant, adolescent memory.

And so it is that The Vandas have returned with the band’s debut long player, Slow Burn. But while Slow Burn is a departure from both In the Morning, and the preceding Didn’t Come Here to Be Alone, it’s no confused meander. Like The Band holed up with beer, coke and weed in a farm house in the lush pastures of upstate New York, or the Rolling Stones licking up the beauty of southern France to the soundtrack of Keef’s countrified rock licks, The Vandas have returned with an album that is as much a statement of the band’s evolution as it is an illustration of rock’n’roll quality.

The deviation in path is evident in the opening moments of the opening track, The Alarm. A casual beginning transforms into grinding early ‘70s rock, replete with a set of licks that much of the West Coast rock fraternity spent that decade searching for through a blizzard of cheap cocaine. Two minutes in and there’s a lead break that crunches your mind like some cheap Mexican tequila, and Chris Altmann pleads like a man on a mission for a better rock’n’roll world. Know It All, in contrast, has the swaggering charm of the Stones in their all fashionable drug addled Exile glory – the Dynamo horns add a certain brass beauty that’s all too rare these days – and the mood is tough, but in a smug sort of a way. Lest anyone make the foolish mistake that The Vandas had left their musing country rock life behind for good, Mikey Madden takes the reigns for the shucks-and-hugs love of Warm At Night; and if any fool is completely stupid to think The Vandas had forgotten how to do a watertight rock song, there’s Go Getter, a track so heartfelt, comforting and satisfying it ought to feature on a ‘70s American music-sitcom.

After the rustic beauty of Ravine brings to mind Lee Hazlewood on a whisky-fuelled journey from LA to the Joshua Tree in search of Gram Parson’s remains, and Three Steps Ahead suggests ‘60s garage pop gem sponsored by Dave Edmunds, Slow Burn (another Mikey Madden track, with a hint of Link Wray) skirts around the edge of that acid-washed territory encountered on the last EP; but this time at least, the eyes aren’t pinned, and the brain is functioning.

While No-One Must Say Anything has a sombre tone, more akin to the emotionally charged fall out from a relationship gone horribly wrong than The Vandas’ usual happy-go-lucky aesthetic, So Happy Now is the perfect antidote, chafing at the bit with rustic, bar room power and potency, wrenching even the most socially retarded punter from their chair and onto the dance floor. And as a suitable finalé, there’s a concluding dose of Band country rock excellence in See Me ‘Round, as fresh as the morning sun witnessed after a night spent with a loved one, and as vivid as the autumn colours in the Adironodack mountains.

There’s plenty of bands who’ve started well, but unfortunately peaked too early; with Slow Burn, The Vandas have suggested that not only has the band reached a new level of maturity, but the best may still yet be to come. The fire is still burning, and it’s providing plenty of warmth."
Patrick Emery, Beat Magazine, 13 August 2008 - Beat Magazine

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

Review: Feature Album – After four years, several EPs and a period of recording silence, Melbourne four-piece outfit The Vandas have finally released their debut album. No one will ever accuse them of rushing into it! Slow Burn is as apt a title as they could possibly have found. There must have been some major temptation, and some pressure, from their record company to release something a lot sooner. Having built a solid fan base through their excellent live shows, the band looked set for big things early on. Yet the new album has undoubtedly benefited from a cautious approach and the buzz created early on has hardly dissipated.

Certainly this is one of the most exciting live local bands that I have seen in recent years and, while they teased us with various abbreviated releases, there was always the promise that they could come up with something truly great. This adds all adds up to making this one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. The wait has certainly been worth it because the end result exceeds expectations.

“ I think it is a good thing that we waited as long as we did,” admitted Chris Altmann when I spoke to both him and the band’s other guitarist and vocalist Mikey Madden the day of the album’s release.

“The band really worked up to this,” he continued, “and the sound on the album is really what we are doing right now. If we would have done it a few years ago it would have been quite different.”

Good things occasionally take time but while Slow Burn has been long in the gestation its actual delivery turned out to be a lot more spontaneous. It is produced by Joel Silbersher – who has worked with GOD, Hoss, and Tex Perkins – and he proves a worthy foil, getting the group to record quickly and spontaneously. The recording sessions took only a couple weeks, which seems remarkable when you hear the end result.

“It was probably the best choice we could have made,” said Madden of Silbersher’s production. “We wanted to pretty much capture live performances and listening back to what we’ve done there’s no point in trying to dress it up. The one thing I love about our album is that it is still full of mistakes. It keeps the human element to it.”

It reminds me of the story of Glyn Johns producing The Faces and letting the band speed up and slow down (most evident on ‘Memphis’ from A Nod Is As Good As A Wink) because he wanted the ‘feel’. And that ‘feel’, however you define it, is what Slow Burn, has in spades.

It is obvious that this album was not laboured over, polished, touched up or otherwise enhanced, because it has a classic rock patina. The majority of the songs were recorded in just one take or two takes and represent, as Madden suggests, a fairly accurate reflection of the band’s live sound.

Silbersher has an uncanny knack for getting just the right balance between guitars and voice – and that does not mean the vocals have to be pre-eminent all the time. While it has that rough edge that characterises so much of the best of Australian rock music it also has a powerful guitar sound that could just as easily have emanated from Texas.

The very name of the band is redolent of not just Australian music history but also the fact that their namesake (Harry Vanda of The Easybeats) was able to write songs that had an international appeal. One senses that the music here might just as easily translate to foreign climes, especially America. (While their tribute here to Vanda is only in name and perhaps approach, it seems far more fitting than the atrocious selections I have so far heard from the Easy Fever tribute. But that’s another story.
It is easy to spot the influence with Slow Burn but rather than offering slavish tributes to their musical idols the band peppers the music with occasional references – intentional or otherwise – that merely help to place their music into context. It is less obvious than a band like the Black Crowes but is the same approach that Jeff Tweedy took with some of the earlier Wilco albums by connecting to a musical lineage.

The opening song, ‘The Alarm’, with its strident lead guitar setting the scene, has that loose and freewheeling bravado of Exile On Main Street; while ‘Know It All’, the first single, is also reminiscent (in parts) of the Stones’ ‘Live With Me’. But rather than being a sprawling work, Slow Burn is more focused. ‘Go Getter’ echoes the funkiness of The Band. ‘See Me ‘Round’, with its gentle start and striking guitar line, might have been inspired by Ronnie Lane’s work with The Faces.

So, while it is easy to see where The Vandas are coming from it is harder to predict where they are headed. But wherever they go is bound to be exciting if this debut is anything to go by.

The majority of the songs on Slow Burn, have the band’s own distinctive stamp: the notable vocals of Altmann and Madden and their stunning guitar interplay, the alternatively sensitive and powerful drumming of Gus Agars and Julien Chick’s compelling bass lines.

On ‘Ravine’ you hear a laconic Altmann assisted with some fine harmony vocals. ‘Three Steps Ahead’, on of the album’s infectious standouts, takes the harmonies a step further and adds stronger interplay between lead guitars. The title song, ‘Slow Burn’, bursts into life and simmers across its five minutes. The quieter, reflective aspect of the band with its atmospherics but retains an underlying toughness.

The wait has been worth it for one of the great albums of 2008. - Rhythms – November 2008

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

**** - There’s an unpretentious grittiness to the debut from these Melburnians. They rifle through rock’s back pages, but there’s none of Jet’s star-tripping here, as they conjure up everybody from The Band to early Elvis Costello, relying on feel instead of bluster. - Who Weekly - September 2008

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

This one's been a while in the works but it's been worth the wait. While I'm sure I've crossed paths with Melbourne garage-country rockers The Vandas live I'm buggered if I can remember exactly where and when. No matter, because their debut album reveals them to be two steps beyond their earlier recordings (two EPs, a single and demos, compiled on the giveaway "How Come You Never Came To The Party?") and shaping as real contenders.

If a year's a long time in politics then five of the suckers is an absolute eternity in a band's life. So chalk one up to longevity when you give this a spin. Time certainly helps a band to know what each other is playing and it's often a failking when an act goes into the studio too soon. The Vandas have spent plenty of time recording when they can but the album came second to getting out and playing.

A great deal's also being made of the recruitment of Hoss/ex-GOD member Joel Silbersher as producer and rightly so on this evidence, although let's also not forget that the band's soundie Justin Hermes engineered. "Slow Burn" has beautiful, warm guitar tones running through its 10 tunes and I'd go as far as to say there's more than a nod in the direction of Hoss happening here. The songs sound stronger and more realised without eschewing the loose-tightness that sets great rock and roll bands apart, and there are some clever tonal variations filtering through.

Production is one thing with but it's the songs that matter most. The Vandas come to the gun-fight armed with high-calibre weapons with "Go Getter" an obvious radio pick, although I won't argue with "Know It All" getting the gig as lead-off single. Vocalist-guitarist Chris Altmann sounds sounds Bailey-esque with mid-period Saints horns fittingly creeping in at the end.

The title track, the mellow but substantial "See Me 'Round", and "So Happy Now", which sounds like an emigrant from "Highway 61 Revisited", are other stand-outs. If you borrow ytour band's name from half of one of Australia's greatest song-writing duos, you gotta deliver. These Vandas do.

Before you get second-thoughts about buying something that carries a mention of "country" in this and other reviews, be assured that The Vandas still get their ya-ya's out and you can happily sit this album next to "Let It Bleed" if you're a non-alphabetical filer. The point is that Madden and main songwriter Chris Altmann indulge in some superb guitar interplay throughout and this is an album that has real depth and lasting vitality. How many recent releases can you say that about? - – September 2008

"The Vandas, Slow Burn album launch @ East Brunswick Club, 13/09/2008"

Having recently seen The Vandas, “everyone’s favourite support band” on The Mess Hall bill, I notice that this evening there is a noticeable spring in their collective step. It is two fold, methinks: it’s the official launch of their debut Slow Burn and they have top billing, a point not lost on lead singer Chris Altmann. Fear not, Chris & Co: your time is now. Tonight’s rapturous set oozes confidence and has a steely edge of a top notch outfit. While a showcase for their new release there is still room for some “oldies”: Hello Again, Hours Away and Leaving, which introduces a three piece horn section for the final five songs of the night. It must be said that tonight’s version of Silence is an absolute cracker, with lead Mikey Madden tearing it up n a 12-string. Go Getter, Three Steps Ahead and especially So Happy Now rock along with a live voracity that cannot be captured on the CD, though they are clearly potential singles, while my personal favourite, the slower Ravine, sounds awesome tonight. The Vandas, and especially the horn section, really come into their own on the album’s first single Know It Alli and the brand new track Jonathan, another bottler and further sign of what’s in store. All and sundry are sent pack with two encore tracks, the cover of Lobby Loyde’s Mr Mean Mouth and album closer See Me ‘Round, content in a consummate performance by one of Melbourne’s finest. - Inpress - 17 September 2008

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

***1/2 - The Melbourne four-piece have spent the last four years building up a well-respected live reputation. For their long awaited debut album they have clearly attempted to play to their strengths (including putting their live mixer on engineering duties) and have done a good job in recreating that vibe. It’s raw without being rough, gritty but not messy. Their rock shows a slight country tilt and is wrapped up in big guitar sounds, be it The Verve-like swagger of the title track or tumbling riffs. Promise more than fulfilled. - Sydney Morning Herald - 12 September 2008

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

***1/2 – Four years after they formed, The Vandas have finally delivered their debut album – which was recorded in just three days. Produced by Joel Silbersher [GOD, Hoss], the sound captures the band’s live vibe – a little loose, with a big guitar sound. They come across as a younger Spencer P. Jones, and Neil Young fans should also investigate. It’s great to hear a local band that’s not chasing trends and is instead whipping up its own intoxicating brew. Don’t be deceived by the title, Slow Burn is definitely incendiary. Ragged glory. - MAG - September 2008

"The Vandas - 'Slow Burn' album review"

These Aussie rock pigs have more swagger than a rooster with a diamond legband and more grunt than a donkey delivering Kirstie Alley to Sizzler. With a sound as raw as the scabs on a skateboarder’s knees and a delivery as passionate as a drunk Frenchman talking about pastries, the blokes follow in the Cuban-heeled tracks of gritty local guitar stranglers like the Beasts of Bourbon, while taking their cue from old-school acts such as the New York Dolls. - People Magazine - August 2008


'Slow Burn' 10 track album (Sep 13) 2008 Liberation Music
'Know It All' digital single 2008 Liberation Music (Triple J airplay and college radio airplay in Australia)
'In The Morning' 5 track CD EP 2006 Liberation Music (Triple J airplay and college radio airplay in Australia)
'Silence' 4 track CD single 2006 Liberation Music (Triple J airplay and college radio airplay in Australia)
'Didn't Come Here To Be Alone' 6 track CD EP 2005 Liberation Music (Triple J airplay and college radio airplay in Australia)



Label - Liberation Music
Publisher - Mushroom Music Publishing
Management - Dan Craddock, Slow Burn Music
Agent - Harbour Agency (Australia).

MAJOR FESTIVALS PLAYED: Big Day Out, Come Together, Sounds of Spring, Apollo Bay Music Festival, A Day on the Green.

MAJOR SUPPORTS: Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, You Am I, The Drones, The Beasts of Bourbon, Airbourne, Dallas Crane, The Stems, Hot Hot Heat, The Bravery.

INFLUENCES: 68-74-era Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Doug Sahm, and Australian rock'n'roll bands such as The Beasts of Bourbon and The Easybeats. Other include The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons, The Band, Big Star, The Faces, Southern soul, Wilco, The Jayhawks, and British invasion acts such as The Kinks, Small Faces, and The Who.

WHAT SETS THE VANDAS APART FROM OTHER BANDS: The Vandas have all of the elements of a great rock'n'roll band: songs, soul, passion, presence, genuine musicianship, dynamics, a great lead vocalist, harmonies and dynamic live show.

STORY: It's taken a while for The Vandas to get to this point.

All the doubts, fears and frustrations are put to rest. Four years after four gentlemen from west and north of the Murray River colluded in the southern capital, their first long play record is finally here.

Despite expectations, borne of two well-received EPs, and a loyal live fanbase of punters and peers gathered everywhere from the corner pub to the big stage with the likes of You Am I, The Drones, and The Beasts of Bourbon, come 2007, The Vandas were drifting. An album was past due but the wheels were barely turning, scars still not faded.

Enter Joel Silbersher. A chance meeting on the factory floor where Chris Altmann and Mikey Madden were workmates with the GOD, Hoss and Tendrils frontman, saw handshakes exchanged and studio bookings made. The record's aim was to be true to The Vandas' greatest strength: playing live. Right down to the choice of their favoured rehearsal studio, Soundpark in Northcote, Victoria, and their live mixer, Justin Hermes, to engineer.

In one long day, they laid down fifteen songs intended as demo's for the album proper. But the performances and sounds were so visceral, so right for the songs - so right for The Vandas - that thoughts of tempting fate with 'proper' recordings were soon nixed. After two more days at Soundpark in the summer of '08, followed by two weeks mixing in glorious analogue by Ben Hurt at Newmarket Studios, the record was done. David Bromley's striking original paintings complete the album, providing a fittingly sardonic visual.

The album's title, 'Slow Burn', comes from the final song put to tape, written between sessions and recorded in two takes. An apt title for a record that sees promises finally kept.

'Slow Burn' is honest, raw, heart-worn, and devoid of the arch pretence or tired detachment of those chasing the zeitgeist. Those familiar with The Vandas will recognise their classic melodies, barbed lyrics, and truly Australian sound throughout the record. But this time the delivery hits harder, the songs cut deeper.

Great art is rarely offered from a place of comfort. The Vandas' scars are there for all to hear on 'Slow Burn'. Anyone left dazed and misused by the fickleness of love's hopes and diminished returns will find a redemptive affirmation in these ten songs. Time can lead to triumph.

'Slow Burn' is out now through Liberation Music (Australia).