In late 2014, Van Hunt set up a Pledge Music page and announced plans for his fifth overall studio album, which was eventually titled “The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets.” Try saying that three times really fast! After many delays, it was finally released in May 2015 before being given a much wider release through Amazon and iTunes. This particular reviewer has been a Van Hunt fan since the first album was released in 2004, over a decade later, here’s what he has to say about “The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets”:
Vega (stripes on): Quite a clever and creative way to introduce the album, with Van’s altered voice saying, “The Fun Rises.” He says it as though somebody is waking up in the morning, with a yawn and stretch. As for “Vega” it’s quite a funky type of tune. If you listen carefully you can hear Van saying “Vega” in a slowed down voice, which is mostly audible in the left channel. Lyrically, it’s full of puns, such as: “I’m the captain of this relationship.” Perhaps it was a little too much information when he asked, “What good is a good girl and my wet dreams?,” but you know what he’s getting at, he’s tired of fantasising and he wants to be with a full blooded female. About halfway through this song, he warns us that the second verse is about to be “full of similes and metaphors.” In 2011 he released a live album where he said that anyone who knows him knows how silly he is. Point proven. That said, good opener.
Old Hat: According to an interview Van did to promote this album, this song was written after a journalist described a hat he was wearing as old. As far as the actual song is concerned, it has somewhat of an old school soul vibe, but to this listener’s ears, it just sounds all kinds of disjointed, as if the beat is way off time. Then half way through the song he completely switches it up and he goes off into this whole Gospel sounding thing and then back into how the song originally sounded. Yeah, it’s not really my thing. Too much going on here for my liking. Sorry, Van. Next.
Pedestal: This song is almost reminiscent of that Timberland sound that was big in the ‘90s, but it also has a slight punk rock edge, as it sounds pretty rough around the edges. Van is making some kind of weird whispering sound all the way through this track. Still don’t know what to make of it at this stage. Not a bad track overall though.
Teach Me A New Language: It may depend on the person, but usually when it’s time to approach a girl you’re eyeing for the very first time, nerves can definitely get the best of you, so why not come up with something unique for all of us shy guys to relate to? “Teach me a new language, no nouns and verbs. A slip of the tongue is felt but never heard.” He’s definitely that creative cat isn’t he? Very well done. Especially when he says he doesn’t “know how to speak to a body that moves like yours.” Although how would a female actually respond to that lyric? It depends on who you’re speaking to at the end of the day. Some might laugh, others might be flattered.
Let it Soak In: Van Hunt begins this particular song with the line: “Dip your love life in my coffee…. and let it soak in.” If he was trying to go for something sexy, then he’s right on the money, especially as far as the delivery is concerned. You can most definitely hear the Prince influences here, not only because of the overall sexy vibe he’s created, but also because it’s very much a stripped down type of funk tune. Apart from that, “Let It Soak In” just feels like a natural progression from what he was doing on his last album “What Were You Hoping For,” as it features a lot of, well, let’s just say, very strange samples throughout the track, at one point it sounds like a car is zooming past. Van is really out there, for sure!
…Puddin’: Something totally different from Van Hunt. It’s funky but at the same time, it harks back to that whole ragtime era of the 20s and 30s. Aside from that it can be interpreted as a black man expressing his pride, as he’s making it abundantly clear that he wants a black woman in his life, or rather, as he’s stated: “I don’t want nothing in my pudding but the chocolate!” Although going by the way the chorus is sung, it had this reviewer thinking that it could also be interpreted as a black man goofing off in the studio. Probably not the intention though.
She Stays With Me: Sounds like a certain female in Van Hunt’s life left a pretty big impression on him, or at least that’s the vibe you may get from listening to this particular song. This girl gave him exactly what he wanted, but now she’s gone and he can’t let go of her, so to speak. He’s using metaphors again, this time he’s saying that she’s dancing on the tip of his tongue. That could just mean he’s still hot for her if you like. Plenty of rubbery slapped bass lines and echoed vocals that evoke desperation. No doubt.
Headroom: Van altering his voice and informing us that “The Fun Sets” brings us exactly to the middle of the album. What follows is an almost cinematic, operatic melancholic break up ballad. There are many in the Van Hunt catalogue, but this one was clearly written from possibly the blackest point of view and it’s full of remorse: “You know I regret it, the shit I put you through,” he croons. While sounding as though choking back tears, he continues: “And I write this letter from here in exile….. can you hear my tearful plea?” Indeed, we can, Mr Hunt. Plenty of sporadic, high falsetto vocals on this cut as well as a reference to “A flood French blood flowing through my veins,” which then brings us to, the next piece of the puzzle, if you will…….
French For Cloud (can’t stop thinkin’ ’bout you): Listening to the album within this context, it seems as though Van Hunt can’t stop thinking about somebody because he’s just broken up with them, as opposed to, “I can’t stop thinking about you because I’m fantasising about you.” He’s obviously very sad and lonely. But then he realises that he “can’t say nothing ‘bout you.” There are all kinds of weird sounds going on throughout this track, such as what appears to be some kind of muttering at around the 1:03 mark. Perhaps the most interesting though is a car horn being used, rather than a brass instrument. Sounds like a cool idea…. then again, Prince already did that on “Face Down” from “Emancipation” in 1996. Perhaps that’s where he got it from? Cool track though. Kinda funky for such a sad subject.
Rub My Feet (suddenly): Van’s vocal delivery is definitely on point on this very pleasant, yet melancholic ballad. The beat is almost hip hop based, while the lyric: “Suddenly, I’m not ashamed to say I’m weak” gives one the impression that Van his showing his vulnerable side. There are also samples of a presumably nerdy white girl saying “Rub my feet!,” which, admittedly sounds rather humorous to this particular listener’s ears. Was he deliberately trying to be funny when he included those samples? Probably not.
Emotional Criminal: Yet another menacing break up song from Van Hunt: “Only you bring me down, but you bring me down low.” Damn! This girl must have done a number on him. In the chorus he adds a bit of acoustic guitar to the mix along with some hand claps, which sound really nice, but then it also sounds like he’s building up some kind of suspense, as if he’s going to make a bold statement. What ends up coming out is a command to “Put your hands where I can see them nice and slow!,” which is then followed by a Clinton-esque chant of: “La, la you look sexy in your mama’s house, la la la… you look good in your mama’s house.” It’s Clintonesque in the sense that his voice is sped up much in the same way George Clinton would have done so on the old P-Funk records. Perhaps you could also liken this to Prince, as he did the same in the ‘80s. Upon the first couple of listens, that very same chorus caused me to roll on the floor with laughter. What does he even mean by that statement anyway? He should start billing himself as Van “Crazy Man” Hunt.
If I Wanna Dance With You: Van Hunt describes the genre of this album as Minimalist and he’s right on the money, especially when it comes to songs like this one, which is mostly piano based and features the odd guitar riff along with echoed lead vocals from the man himself. Seems to be yet another one of those melancholic tunes as it features references to fighting over words and killing each other with one stone. Damn! The chorus, though is quite bizarre: “If I want to dance with you I have to use my remote control.” What?! That must mean he can’t be bothered to get off his butt, like “Yeah, whatever….. press DANCE to proceed.” This dude is all kinds of quirky and off the wall. But I like his music, no doubt.
A Woman Never Changes: Damn! Van Hunt hit the nail on the head with this awesome tribute to women. Exactly what do they want? Heck, not even they can decide: They ebb and flow between thinking that they want this and that, yet they will change their minds at the drop of a hat. My favourite lyric is: “Yet she grumpy when she wake up. Sitting at the traffic lights putting on her make-up to hide the frown on her face.” Brilliant. I presume Van was drawing inspiration from the current woman in his life, but you could probably apply it to any female out there. Something about this song sounds a little melancholic, yet slightly “up” at the same time.
The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets: After all of that misery Van decides to lighten things up again with this great slice of Gospel inspired soul. “We were having fun, she said, “It’s that time of month.” The fun rises, the fun sets.” What’ll they think of next? These crazy singers and players of instruments. I suppose it’s obligatory for a woman to tell her man when that happens. OK, too much info yet again. It’s definitely a great closer though.
Music Is A World Within Itself: This song is not officially featured on the album but it was given away for free to everybody who pledged for this particular album as a “teaser” of what to expect. Basically, it’s a meshing of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (hence the title) and Maroon Five’s “Moves Like Jagger,” which Van has humorously changed to: “Moves like James Brown, moves like popcorn.” He’s definitely funny like a clown and he’s here to amuse you. Apparently there’s also a reference to Al Green but I’ve missed it.
Verdict: Overall this album’s very good. However, it’s just as well he decided to go independent after his third album “Popular” got shelved because if he tried to release this album on a major label, there’s a pretty good chance they would have shown him the door before he even got a chance to put it out there. Oh well, that would have been their loss!! Yeah, sure, Van is very silly and funny but he’s the man, for sure. As to what else he has hidden up his sleeve, I guess time will tell.