Naming itself after the vehicle commonly used in its native Denmark to collect mental health patients, The Blue Van makes a fetish out of Cream/Faces-influenced blues-based rock on The Art of Rolling: “What the young people want / They want to wear flared jeans / I wanna be like the Mods / A London hip-shaking teen.” Per Jorgensen attacks his drum kit with a frenzy that recalls Ginger Baker and Keith Moon, while Soren Christensen deploys an arsenal of similarly busy, vintage-sounding keyboards — including, on the instrumental “The Bluverture,” densely layered mellotron. Rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Steffan Westmark and bassist Allan Villadsen, the teenaged group plays with abundant enthusiasm, not to mention an impressive level of instrumental skill. On the downside, though, The Art of Rolling is more dedicated to groove and energy than songwriting. By the time the CD reaches the halfway mark, the songs start to blur into one another. Still, “Product of DK,” “Revelation of Love,” the acoustic-guitar-enhanced blues ballad “Baby, I’ve Got Time” and a cover of Graham Bond’s “I Want You” stand out, and the album as a whole is viscerally enjoyable. (Earlier renditions of four of the album’s tracks here were released on the Beatsellers EP, along with the song “Peine Forte et Dure.”)
As The Blue Van continues its journey on Dear Independence, the group shows off its newfound songwriting finesse and a few additional influences. American producer Henry Hirsch (best known for his work with Lenny Kravitz), imparts a sense of depth and space to this album that the debut lacked. The quartet makes the most of this breathing room by adding more layers of acoustic guitar and keyboards throughout, along with chiming bells on a couple of tracks. This brings a welcome melodic sheen to “Don’t Leave Me Blue,” “The Poet Tree,” “Rico” and the flower-power-flavored “The Time is Is Right.” The quartet also works a music-hall feel into “Momentarily Sane” and the piano coda of “White Dominos.” The Blue Van may be rolling down the same road it navigated on its first CD, but it’s good to know the boys are checking out a little more of the scenery along the way.