I'll be honest that although I've heard a lot about Versus over the years, I've never really heard much of anything by them, which judging by this album alone is too bad. When I was in college, I listened to a lot of music by groups like Unrest, and that solidly crafted pop-rock was always good for me to listen to when I started wallowing down in things like industrial and electronic music. While it wasn't all bubbly and happy, it was a good step back to pretty-much straight-up rock music. All about the construction and the vocals and lyrics instead of so much about the textures.
That's probably why this album felt like such a breath of fresh air when I listened to it. There are male/female vocal harmonies, tight upbeat tracks, and even a few slower ballad-like ones. Not only that, but they had me humming along with them on the first listen and singing along with them subsequently, which is just about the hopes of a pop-rock group I'd like to think.
The one-two punch of the first couple songs on the release are actually some of the best moments on the album. While "My Adidas" may sound like an attempt to cash in, the bittersweet lyrics of the song go well with the start/stop nature of the track. After beginning in an almost pretty manner (with even a bit of flute in the background), things eventually buckle and the track cracks open and rocks out. "Eskimo's On Fire" is never in any doubt, though, as it takes off from the start with jangling bass and guitars, rambunctious drumming, and a great use of two-part vocals.
The group slows things down nicely on the next track "Play Dead," and although they set foot in familiar indie-rock territory with the lyrics, the song is fresh sounding and a nice contrast to the rather raucous first couple tracks. The group goes through several different sounds on the rest of the album, including the rawk sounds of the overly long "Fredrick's Of Hollywood," the simple guitar strummings of the quiet and pretty "The Spell You're Under," and a nice addition of piano on "Walkabout."
Although the group is at their best when they're writing mid-tempo (with up-tempo bursts) tracks like the excellent "Said Too Much," but also show their range with quite a few different styles on the release. If you're needing a good dose of indie pop-rock before the weather starts getting colder, this is probably just the ticket. Veterans of the indie scene? Probably. Where's the hall-of-fame?