Sound: Versus The World is a band that came from the depths of the unknown back in 2005, when lead singer and guitarist Donald Spence decided to team up with longtime bassist of The Ataris, Mike Davenport. The band quickly spewed out a self-titled album, and seemingly broke up after 2007. In between then and now, I stumbled across said album, and my ears were graced by some of the best pop-punk I'd ever heard. The lyrics were dark, the guitars were simple but unique, and Spence had one of the most unique voices I'd ever heard. As a 14 year-old kid who was just starting to play music, I was hooked. Needless to say, when the band regrouped in 2010 with Lagwagon guitarist Chris Flippin and Spence's pal Bryan Charlson, I was excited to hear what they had to offer. After 2 long years of waiting, the band finally released their sophomore effort, "Drink. Sing. Live. Love.", and it does not disappoint.
Despite replacing half their line up, Versus The World manages to not only keep the same feel to their songs, but they've evolved and expanded upon the sound that made them so appealing in the first place. Songs such as "a Fond Farewell" and "These Bones" (revamped from the stripped down acoustic version seen on the "600 Days EP" by Spence and Charlson's side band Crooks & Liars) are surefire sing-alongs, and do a good job of taking a break from the almost downtrodden feel of songs like "Mason Grace" and "Lullabye". Other songs such as "Donner Pass" and "The Kids Are F--ked" feel like all out jam sessions; full force headbangers that are sure to please any hard rock fan. The album also comes to a wonderful conclusion with the track "We Were Alive", a track that overflows with energy and becomes almost infectious as time goes on. The one track I'm less than willing to praise, however, is "Crooks & Liars", a track that feels almost out of place on the album, fitting in much better with the aforementioned side band of Spence and Charlson. While they've placed it on the album as well as they could've hoped, I can't help but feel another song should've taken its place. Still, the other 12 tracks are pure bliss, sure to impress both long-time fans of the band and newcomers alike. // 9
Lyrics: Lyrically, Versus takes a few cues from The Ataris, with songs that reek of nostalgia, describing the fantastic and often heartbreaking adventures Spence has experienced. Every song tells a story, such as "Mason Grace" which tells the tale of one of the band's old friends and merchants who passed away from a drug overdose, or "A Love Song For Amsterdam", in which Spence speaks out to the European country, pledging his devotion and hope to one day be able to stay in the place of his dreams.
In terms of technique, the band also does its best to break routine, having choruses that evolve in a way, with the lyrics changing a bit each time to keep with the progression of the song. Yes, it may keep casual listeners from being able to sing along the first few times, but overall, it's a good technique that keeps the song from getting stale. Some songs don't even seem to follow a formula, "The Kids Are F--ked" in particular keeps from falling into any groove. Overall, Spence proves again to be a talented and versatile lyricist, who manages to stay unpredictable throughout the majority of the album, making for an impressive listening experience. // 9
Overall Impression: Honestly, "Drink. Sing. Live. Love." is the most satisfying pay-off I've had in a while. Many times a band will put out something new, and after listening to it once or twice, I'll go back to my old favorites and wait for the next release. Versus The World, however, have managed to strongarm me into cycling this album almost non-stop. Every song is an earworm in its own right, bound to get stuck in your head at one point or another. The band has come back in the grandest way possible, and if they can manage to stay together this time around, then it's safe to say that they're on their way to the top. // 10