Live: Versus Carry On The Merge Juggernaut At The Rock Shop


The Rock Shop
Thursday, August 12

Now that Merge Records is an UNSTOPPABLE CHART-TOPPING MACHINE, let us regard their future chart-toppers, including On the Ones and Threes, the first record in a decade from NYC alt-pop heroes Versus, who still convey profoundly dire sentiments in a rather cheerful way. “This song is called ‘Double Suicide,’ announces singer/guitarist Richard Baluyut. “It’s for all you couples out there.”

The new Rock Shop (small, cozy, very shiny, entirely agreeable, and with sports-bar-like splendor upstairs if the tunes ever displease you) is filled tonight with a small but absurdly devout crowd, toasting each other during the thrashier breakdowns, shouting “That was good!” after every song, requesting songs from their new album (that never happens), etc. (At one point bassist/singer/co-leader Fontaine Toups starts calling people out by name.) The set is Ones and Threes-heavy — “Kind of a bummer record,” Richard allows, in that tunes like “Invincible Hero” are very much sarcastic, the vintage guitar-centric alt-rock jams sweetly sour, as you’d expect a ’90s sensibility to sound in 2010. Drummer Edward Baluyut is a trip, in thick glasses and a Tweety Bird T-shirt, hammering away with an exaggerated Devo-like stiffness; Toups coos “You’ll be sorry” in a delicate, lullaby-like lilt. And “Double Suicide” makes for a fine encore, actually, crunching and grandiose and melodramatic, just like it was back in 1996, and just like the guys with the Billboard #1 album today.