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(Merge; US: 3 Oct 2000; UK: Available as import)

Versus' music has always had a pleasant kind of tension about it:

For this reason, they’ve long been an underappreciated force in indie rock. What they do is subtle enough that they’re sometimes easily overlooked as just another “alternative” rock band. They’ve also had their share of label troubles, the all-too-common story of corporate interests threatening to smother originality.

Now that they’re finally back on a label that celebrates artists for what they do, not what they might be worth, Versus sounds freer than ever. While their last two albums, as great as they were, both had a few songs that hinted toward pop styles other than their usual style of melodic yet edgy rock, Hurrah has a musical diversity and complexity that catches your attention in such a forceful way that it’s impossible to ignore. In a perfect world, this album would make people sit up and realize what they’ve been missing for so many years.

Hurrah is not only filled with stellar examples of the sort of intelligent, complicated rock music Versus has been playing since they’ve begun, it also includes songs that see them flying in fresh, new directions. The best summary would be to say that this album leans both toward noisier rock than ever before, and toward quiet, gorgeous pop that they’ve done before. But even that wouldn’t tell the whole story. There’s a countryish ditty that becomes a lush, beautiful ballad, sunny pop songs about bitter breakups, weird poems set to upbeat guitar rock, Sonic Youth-ish apocalyptic jams, a chipper piano tune that morphs into an odd, experimental shuffle and “Fredericks of Hollywood,” a hyper rock song soaked with sexual tension that leads first into a mellow organ interlude and then into an absolutely wild guitar freakout.

In short, Hurrah is a work of utter complexity, one of the most multi-dimensional rock albums I’ve heard in a while. Everything has a sharp edge to it, yet the album is also filled with some of the prettiest melodies that you’ll hear. It’s about love, it’s about pain, it’s about tenderness, it’s about the end of the world; what more do you need?

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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