Photo: Hardly Art

Versing’s ‘10,000’ Traffics in Indie Rock Blandness

Versing is a Seattle-based band that blends elements of '90s alt-rock, shoegaze, and post-punk into a single bland indie rock sound.

Hardly Art
3 May 2019

Versing is a Seattle-based band that blends elements of ’90s alt-rock, shoegaze, and post-punk into a single bland indie rock sound. There are elements in the songs of 10,000 that are interesting, but those elements often fail to rise above the rote songwriting and run of the mill musicianship that permeates this album.

“Tethered”, the album’s third track, starts as one of the interesting ones. It’s got a nice, chiming guitar riff that has a solid rhythm guitar accompaniment and a slightly nasal, speak-sung verse structure from singer-guitarist-songwriter Daniel Salas. But then the chorus cranks up the guitar distortion, and Salas starts really singing, and the song immediately turns into sonic mush, losing all of its distinctiveness. It goes back to the clean section for a second verse, but after that, it’s all mushy choruses and noisy but dull guitar solos for the back half of the song.

Another song, “By Design”, has a simple crunching guitar riff, a falsetto chorus, and a loping tempo. It perfectly mimics an alternative rock song circa 1996, to the point of having a quieter, shimmering bridge that leads into a guitar solo outro to finish the song. You could tell someone who grew up in the 1990s that this was a half-remembered single that played in between songs from K’s Choice and Hum and have a 50/50 chance of being believed. But what “By Design” shares with the mostly forgotten alt-rock singles of the mid-’90s is the proper sound without the memorable hooks.

The record’s opener, “Entryism”, has some slightly twangy guitar work over a driving beat, and it goes back and forth between the twang and more typical distortion. The verses even have a bit of nice interplay between the two guitars. The song’s MVP is clearly drummer Max Keyes, though, who keeps the beat steadily pounding throughout the five minutes as if he was LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney. With these positives, it’s a shame that Salas’ vocals and melody are nearly colorless, without any kind of real hook. This is a solid bedrock for a song, but the drums and guitars aren’t set up to carry it alone.

And those are the songs with personality. There’s a long list of tracks from 10,000 that are more forgettable. “Violeta” starts with a snarling guitar and moody, dark atmosphere, but doesn’t do much with it. “Vestibule” has a catchy guitar solo and that’s about it. “Long Chord” almost seems like an experiment to see how long Keyes can continue hitting his snare drum on every eighth note before the listener loses interest. “Entryism’s” beat is similarly simple, and it works, but Keyes outlasts the listener on this one. “In Mind” starts with slow, crunching unison chords but then abandons it for something much more standard. “3D” is such a listless mid-tempo rocker that it nearly defies description.

At least “Renew”, finishing up the album, fares a bit better. It has a solid guitar riff in the verses and a good chorus. Turns out the secret for Versing to find a melodic hook simply be doubling the guitars and vocals. The song also features a very good extended guitar solo to end the track.

I’ve been listening to this record for two weeks, and at this point, I can’t look at the tracklist and tell you what any one of these songs sounds like from title alone. That’s a pretty big indictment of the songwriting here. Nothing on 10,000 is bad, specifically, it’s just not that interesting. Which makes it 42 minutes worth of background rock music that won’t offend or, alternatively, engage the vast majority of listeners.

RATING 4 / 10