The Blue Van

Man Up

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Danish rockers the Blue Van do rock star swagger better than they do music, but on their third album, Man Up, they've gotten just good enough at writing tunes and making them stick in the studio that their attitude sounds reasonably plausible rather than just wishful thinking. Unlike many of their brethren in the Netherlands, the Blue Van seem to have their feet planted in '70s hard rock rather than garage rock or punk, but guitarist and singer Steffen Westmark lacks the epic style to conjure up the thunder of a Jimmy Page or the solid crunch to be a riff monster like Angus Young. But on Man Up, Westmark's lean, wiry tone has gained enough personality to give the songs some welcome melodic weight, and the tunes are stronger and catchier on this album. The first four tracks kick off Man Up in grand and lively style, and though the album never quite regains the same momentum after slowing down for the Zep-influenced "Lay Me Down and Die," Westmark lets loose enough sweat and smirk to keep the music moving, and drummer Per M. Jorgenson and bassist Allan F. Villadsen back him up with solid, no-frills rhythms (through keyboard man Søren V. Christensen is barely audible in much of the mix). There's an understated snarky wit running through Man Up that makes this album feel more like a parody of hard rock than the real thing (especially given the band's lack of guitar heroics), but it's close enough to the mark to seem like a satire executed out of love of the form, and when the Blue Van hit fourth gear, you'd believe they could pull off a real hard rock epic if they put their minds to it.

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