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The music of this aptly named New York trio pits contrasting elements against each other on a number of levels: bristling guitar racket stands out against moments of quiet; hook-filled riffs compete with artless but earnest singing; and vocal arrangements feature the old female/male, sweet/sour dichotomy. On the band's debut full-length record, The Stars Are Insane (TeenBeat), this tug-of-war results not in fragmentation but in a cohesive and instantly likable set of tunes that are neither cloyingly cute nor repugnantly gruff. While many bands seem to spend more time on their "sound" than their songs, Versus gives precedence to the latter, trafficking in catchy melodies. Yet like most of their TeenBeat colleagues, they give their tuneful pop a nonconformist edge. "Mirror Mirror" from The Stars Are Insane instantly sucks you in with a buoyant hook, "Janet" seamlessly combines three distinct song fragments in only five minutes without sounding disjointed or pretentious, and "Deseret" perfectly encapsulates the Versus aesthetic--an unself-conscious mingling of twee pop with decibel-juiced guitar crunch. The members of Versus don't rank among the more revelatory wordsmiths of our time, but perhaps those looking to rock 'n' roll records for profundity are looking in the wrong place to begin with. Versus headlines the TeenBeat Circus 1994, a bill that includes similarly quirky pop stylists and labelmates Air Miami, Blast Off Country Style, and Tuscadero (see Spot Check for info on some of these bands). Friday, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Galinsky.

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