Lost Classics: Versus “Secret Swingers”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: VERSUS
Secret Swingers // Caroline, 1996

versus355In the mid-’90s, hundreds of eager rock bands vied for Sonic Youth’s status as the leader of the noisy rock movement. Today, most of those records sound as flimsy as back-alley designer knock-offs. New York City’s Versus saved itself from that fate by balancing Sonic Youth confidence with a complete lack of pretension and a willingness to turn playful at the right moment. On Secret Swingers, the brothers Baluyut (guitarist/vocalist Richard, guitarist James and drummer Ed) and bassist Fontaine Toups set their love of guitar-generated discord against solid pop songwriting. Toups and Baluyut traded vocal lines cheerfully, while odd guitar chords and complex time signatures clashed beneath them. Part of what made Versus so compelling was that the band never got swept away by how “cool” it was. One of the album’s most charming moments came at the end of “Lose That Dress,” when Toups ran out of breath and trailed off into laughter before managing to pick up the note again. Secret Swingers may not have been revolutionary, but like a good inside joke between friends, it stuck around.

Catching Up: Versus released two more well-received albums before going on hiatus in 2001. James Baluyut and post-Secret Swingers drummer Patrick Ramos formed +/-, Toups fronted an eponymous band, and Richard Baluyut played in Whysall Lane with ex-Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler. Versus has done a handful of gigs over the past few years and plans to do more.

“Lose That Dress”:

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9 Comments

  1. roarvis
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    This is a cool record. Not as good as The Stars Are Insane overall, but I still rank “Glitter of Love” as one of the best indie rock songs ever.

  2. Meese-Mut
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    agreed, re glitter of love. Versus live ranks very high on my list, seen them in boston, providence and buffalo – loud and tight as could be each time. Hey Magnet -what about Small Factory (who played with versus a few times) as a lost classic?

  3. chas speed
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    One of the best live bands I have ever seen. I wish I could see them play again.

  4. Posted March 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    That girls gone is one of the best songs ever. Secret Swingers is in my top 10

  5. Posted April 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    To me Versus picked up where the Pixies left off. I was a huge fan of this trio back in the day an I still am. They had such great catchy tunes an I loved the fact that they seemed to have a release (LP,EP ,7″) just about every 9 months in the early to mid-nineties. Versus where one of 3 bands that I followed religiously back then. Unwound & Fugazi are the other two. Each have there own unique way in how they presented music but all three bands are equals when it came to releasing great bodies of work.

  6. Posted May 2, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    One of my favorite live bands. One night, they sauntered in late after an exhausting drive from their previous stop. I don;t even recall they had a soundcheck. They had to wake Ed (or maybe it was Patrick) up when it was their slot. And they just freaking ripped. I told them after, that it was unfortunate that they were the only ones who would never get to experience this band from the audience. It put me into this trance zone – something about how tight they were, the open-string harmonics, who well the guitars weaved that night…But I like “2 Cents + Tax” and “Stars” better than Secret Swingers.

  7. Posted October 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I randomly found this when trying to remember the name of this band.”Double Suicide” is the best high school make out song ever.

  8. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Versus for me is one of the bands that influenced me in terms of musical taste. Being a Filipino, I’m proud to have discovered the band and love playing their records. Secret Swingers is included on my top ten list for indie-rock albums, Looking forward in getting the LP if I can find, hopefully. Just got the Hurrah LP via Merge though.

  9. Posted May 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    loved loved loved their early singles and EPs and was stunned and delighted when this finally came out. seriously underrated and unappreciated, it feels. great call on a ‘lost classic’