Six Standout Tracks From The Mighty Versus, Who Play Cake Shop Tomorrow Night

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On some levels, it's a shame that Versus's reunion in 2009 wasn't met with the same level of enthusiasm as the reconvening of their more famous Amerindie peers. But it's also understandable. For one, if there's such a thing as "lunchpail indie rock"—the sort of workmanlike no-frills stuff that encapsulates the sound of those times without really defining it—then Versus was most definitely its epitome. While they were very good at what they did, what they did wasn't the type of thing to inspire mass hysteria of the "OMG PAVEMENT!!11!" variety.

That said, a better reason for the lack of noise made by Versus's return to active duty is that they never actually stopped being Versus. They just stopped being Versus on a regular basis, instead spending the years between 2000's Hurrah and 2010's On The Ones And Threes sporadically playing out as a unit while working on their own seperate projects. It also helps that Threes didn't sound like a typical reunion album, but instead more like the record they would've made if they hadn't gone into semi-hiberation for nearly a decade. In case you're new to what these fine folks have to offer, and you want to prepare yourself for the group's headlining show Saturday at Cake Shop, here are some highlights (in chronological order) from Versus's voluminous discography.

"Thera" (The Stars Are Insane, 1994)

After garnering a fair amount of buzz from their first couple of singles, Versus hit the ground running on their Teenbeat Records debut with this track. It's got the hallmarks of a typical Versus song—Richard Baluyut's man-of-the-people voice, Fontaine Toups's slightly sweeter vocal counterpoint, and a little of the loud / soft dynanism to allow a chance for either Richard or his brother Edward to play guitar hero—but the group's formula hadn't yet progressed far from their initial "Mission of Burma with Kim Deal on bass" calculations, and as great a noise as they made, there's a dour po-faced pallor to the proceedings that dampens the mood. Still, if you ask people who gave a rat's ass about Versus back in the '90s, they'll probably point to this album as their favorite.

"Tin Foil Star" (Dead Leaves, 1995) (Spotify link)

And if they don't rally around The Stars Are Insane, then it's a safe bet to say they'll rep for this collection of singles and compilation tracks. Dead Leaves definitely shows the group in a more playful light—the wry and cheeky "Merry Go Round" is an unheralded addition to the slacker-anthem canon. But if you're looking for prime-era Versus, "Tin Foil Star"—the group's contribution to the calendar-centric singles subscription series Working Holiday—finds the group stepping out from behind the moody murk of The Stars Are Insane into a brighter, and decidedly more melodic, light.

"Double Suicide" (Secret Swingers, 1996)

Signing to Caroline Records, the alt-rock farm system for Virgin Records, allowed Versus to focus on their music as a full-time pursuit, and that care shines through on this varied yet consistent album. This rave-up (sung by Toups) is one of the record's highlights, as it exhibits the group's growth both as songwriters and musicians. And it doesn't hurt to throw in a little nod to Chairs Missing-era Wire at the end, either.


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5 comments
JRom
JRom

Versus is a very underrated, overlooked band. I love all of their material.

roosevelt
roosevelt

too bad you gave their most recent album that shitty review on pitchfork.

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Fortunately for Versus and many other bands of great merit, that website is really predictable. I can't be the only one to note - it's becoming clear that the bands they lionize are just as hit and miss as any other critic venue. See how quickly they backtracked on Lana Del Rey. Look at the preference for youth, novelty vs vision/well-developed ideas, and idea over execution. It's like art school. Anyway, back on track - hurray for Versus! Always loved the Baluyut bros. (saw + / - years ago; met Richard, who was lovely and humble!) and so excited to see Fontaine onstage, looking good and rocking out.

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 Yep! Glad someone called out that kind of backpedaling.

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