July 22, 2010

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Versus, On the Ones and Threes
Merge Records, Aug. 3
20-year-veteran alt-rockers Versus would have every right to be all like “you can’t handle the truth” in the face of today’s slicker, more anything-goes college radio-scape.The New York girl-boy-boy threesome, whose icebreaker for a long while was the Filipino ethnicity of their Baluyut brothers, have always had what they deserved, a small but intent fan base that focused on the band’s knack for melody and clever lyrics while ignoring the whimsical un-pro-ness of their semi-pro sound. These odd angles resurface here in, for example, “Nu Skin,” which could be most recognizably described as Peter, Paul and Mary (more like Cowboy Junkies, really) singing over Neurosis-style mud-math-metal guitars. Sort of endearing, you know? Like I said, oldschool, and not just in the sense of punk-reaction-to-grunge oldschool but SST oldschool, like Red Kross with a tad less aptitude. There hasn’t been a new Versus album since 2000 — a scary thought, I suppose — but they’ve actually changed for the better. In fact, as would be their wont, Merge Records says this is Versus’s best album ever, and I’d agree, based foremost on the blocky, kickass (but easy to play, of course) riff they wrap opener “Invincible Hero” around. In sum, old fans will love it, but so would any newbie whose most worn-out CDs are from Sonic Youth and Pavement. BEric W. Saeger