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

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In 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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