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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 171 - 08/24/10

On the Ones and Threes
Merge Records

The summer of 1994, and I played The Stars Are Insane repeatedly all summer long. It's a fantastic album, and one of the great debut albums of indie rock. It's 'epochal', says Merge, and I fully agree, as it's without doubt a landmark record of the 1990s. The summer of 1998, and I visited New York City for the first time, only to find out that Versus were to play live at the Bowery Ballroom during my stay! Yes, and a couple of days after that gig I went to Williamsburg, just for checking out the area. While waiting for green lights by some pedestrian crossing field, I noticed a man approaching towards me. No-one else but Versus front man Richard Baluyut, asking me for a light. Big city, small world.

On the Ones and Threes is the first Versus LP in ten years, the first since their swansong Hurrah. I was quite excited when hearing about this new platter coming, but also a bit nervous of facing (eh, earing....) a disappointing album. I once described Versus' music as sugar-coated and barbed-wired. Usually Versus records have been cascading, sweet'n'sour guitars, and bittersweet, if not only bitter, cynic, or gloomy lyrics (as Richard is a self-acclaimed nihilist). Versus' music is about rough edges, soft cores, with ever-shifting (neatly balanced) vocals between Richard and Fontaine. On The Ones... holds 10 songs for listeners in the compact/digital domain, 12 songs for admirers of the good old vinyl. A peculiar thing is that the order of the songs on vinyl and cd are radically different. Only two pairs of songs, "Gone To Earth" and "Cicada", plus "Saturday Saints" and "Scientists", are 'paired together' on the two formats. One of the bonus songs, "Death Ray", is opening the vinyl edition. To name some key tracks: "Invincible Hero", "Cicada" and "Into Blue".

I find On the Ones and Threes to be a solid piece of work -- sympathetic, with trademark Versus songs and enough enthusiasm throughout the album. Yet, I'm not blown away. Just comfortable with the quality of the album. Enjoying some golden moments, twists and turns, eager to find and play the old records once more. On the Ones... seems to be sort of a cinematic tribute, as there are (for all you film buffs) 'Thanks to' Nick Ray and Powell & Pressburger.

Welcome back, Richard, Fontain and Ed.

Copyright © 2010 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Versus articles/reviews: Afterglow EP, July 10th 1998, Bowery Ballroom, New York.

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