Imagine you’re a young person living in the western part of Washington state, and you start a band with some college buddies. It’s the 21st century, but your songs feature loud electric guitars and memorable melodies delivered nonchalantly. Old people say your sound recalls the alt/indie-rock heyday of the early 1990s.
At some point, you decide to move your band to the big city and you start working on your first full-length album. And when it’s all done and you’re ready to put it out into the great big world, you give that album a name: Nirvana.
The chutzpah, right? Or the nerve, depending on how you look at it.
This is more or less Versing’s story, but it’s not quite as brazen as it sounds. (Close, but not quite.) The Tacoma-turned-Seattle band’s 2017 debut album is called Nirvana, and it is packed with guitar-rock songs that are coarse and catchy. But they don’t sound much like the very famous band in the album’s title.
Instead, the rock gods in Versing’s version of the ‘90s are underground touchstones like Pavement and Sonic Youth, both of which bleed through the band’s new album, 10000. Take a song like “Tethered,” for example, which veers back and forth between sections of pointillist guitar plucking and roaring distortion, while frontman Daniel Salas channels Thurston Moore, speak-singing nuggets of wisdom like “remember the lessons you forgot.” Closing track “Renew,” on the other hand, draws its considerable power from a simple guitar part and a rumbling bass line before opening up into a sparkling chorus that’s downright Goo-worthy.
Elsewhere, you can pick out the Pavement-isms throughout 10000 — which, to be clear, is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just … a thing. The relaxed and slightly twangy “Survivalist” sounds exactly like “Debris Slide” colliding with “Father to a Sister of Thought,” whereas the spacey drone of “Loving Myself” could pass for a half-baked Terror Twilight-era b-side. And at least three songs here — “By Design,” “Sated” and “Long Chord” — employ the same sort of lurching zigzag guitar riff Stephen Malkmus used in “Rattled By the Rush.” The former and the latter never quite build up enough momentum for takeoff, but “Sated” shifts into a punky coda for its final third, which turns out to be a sort of hidden highlight on 10000.
Indeed, right now Versing is at its best when its charging forward, as evidenced not only by the aforementioned “Renew,” but also the album’s potent opening one-two punch: “Entryism” is ultra-propulsive and gloriously noisy, while “Offering” is a roller-coaster pop song built on an endless churn of string-bending squall.
No matter what speed they’re going, though, Versing all the right tools and sounds and instincts. They’re a very promising band. They just need a little more time in the oven and a little more distance from their influences. That’s the kind of thing that comes with time, and Versing has plenty of that ahead.