Luxembourg is a country with a population of just over 500,000 – considerably less than the urban catchment area of my current residential city of Nottingham. Its ability to spawn a successful punk rock band is therefore significantly diminished but, low and behold, they have in fact managed to produce Versus You.
This is the fourth full length from a band that, whilst never a household name and rarely top of the bill, has been doing the rounds for just shy of a decade and has played with a tremendous string of huge acts all over the world, from NOFX to Jimmy Eat World and Propagandhi. When you consider all the stages they’ve shared it’s enough to make you wonder why you don’t own more of their records.
Versus You have a sound that couldn’t be more perfectly described than by using the expression ‘Epi-Fat’. If you threw all of those Punk-O-Rama and Fat Wreck comps you own into a melting pot and then poured the resulting concoction into a bottle…then erm…that would be a bottle of Versus You.
‘When It All Comes Down’ bursts out of the traps with unashamed three chord punk rock, vocalist/guitarist Eric Rosenfeld’s voice hovering somewhere between Pulley and Millencolin. Every song feels like it draws something from one of your favourite acts. The melodies on ‘If The Camels Die, We Die’ are just like a Larry Arms track and then the wonderful ‘A Way With Words’ feels very like All – quick to the the chorus with the whole song feeling like one big hook.
Their songwriting has a very evident craft and maturity to it of the kind that can only be acquired from working hard for a very long time and learning from the best in the business. Pop punk is simple music in premise but to write it well you have to be creative and intelligent and, more than anything, really know how to structure a great song. Versus You have got the skill down to a tee and it pays dividends for them.
The main drawback, and it’s a pretty big one unfortunately, is that the band doesn’t manage to find a lot of its own identity in the music. ‘Moving On’ certainly comes across as a devoted tribute to the bands that inspired Versus You to do what they are doing, but it doesn’t feel like they are really taking the music by the scruff of the neck and stamping their own authority on it – more like they are happy just to sound like another one of those bands.
Basically, this is a band who know their audience, and if you’re reading this and you are one of those people, I’ve probably already said enough for you to want to give this a listen. As far as the Epi-Fat sound goes then Versus You are a welcome and high quality contributor, but it’s difficult to see their music reaching out much beyond those limits.
– Alex Phelan