Versus

On the Ones and Threes

Merge

Aug 04, 2010 Issue #32 - Summer 2010 - Wasted on the Youth Bookmark and Share


The first minute or so of "Invincible Hero," the opening track of the first Versus album in 10 years, presses the question: Where has Versus been all this time? A decade has passed since their last album, Hurrah, and sometimes a break isn't a bad idea, of course. Whatever the case, the core of Richard Baluyut, Fontaine Toups and returning member Edward Baluyut have emerged, 20 years after their formation, with what might be the band's best album. For longtime fans, such a declaration may be compromised by what Versus means to them, but even if 1993's The Stars Are Insane or maybe 1996's Secret Swingers seemed like indisputable peaks, On the Ones and Threes offers a perfect example of someone's second or third act being both an achievement worth recognition and a catalyst for a reevaluation of its creators' body of work.

"Invincible Hero" immediately puts all of their strengths up front: tight instrumentation, strong melodies, and the close harmonies of Richard and Fontaine. "Nu Skin" in particular spotlights their vocal interplay, and with some great melodic twists unwinding over a hypnotic pace, it's a highlight.

"Seven long years I've been left for dead...I fell from grace with the sun on my face," sings Richard in the gritty-and-graceful "Cicada," a song that provides a terrific centerpiece for the album. Stretching out over five minutes to showcase each player, urgent guitars and drums give way to a sweet, sad break before Richard and Fontaine join vocals to close the song.

While this is a darker album in some ways than their earlier work, there's no bummer vibe here. Lyrically, it's obvious that these are songs written by someone who has seen a few years come and go, and their pop sense has been burnished and built into the songs of a group that knows how to make a trio memorable. (www.myspace.com/versusnyc)

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