Some bands struggle with weighty and deserved comparisons to current flavours of the month and others revel in it. AU are somewhere in the middle, dogged by persistent comparison but seemingly happy to wallow in it. Consciously or not, it's a trade the band has plied on previous albums, their profile rising at a similar rate to their sound-a-likes all the while. However, whilst one has now gone stratospheric the other is unlikely to do so.
There could be a couple of reasons for this: 1) the niche has now been filled by a band that has nailed what has increasingly been called their sound, 2) rightly or wrongly, imitation rarely does as well a job as the real thing.
AU (primarily the Portland-based multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland) have one trick, which is repeated on at least four of Version's six lengthy tracks. Luckily, it's a good trick. Who better to ape than the previously inimitable Animal Collective? Like their peers, when AU hit they do so strongly, though just not as often. Versions contains only one moment worthy of Noah Lennox and accordingly it is a blinder. The steam-train parps, twinkling keyboards and swaying rhythm of "RR Vs. D" whiff strongly of some Animal Collective-curated carnival and the frantic key change with one minute to go is a thing of beauty that ices the cake.
Elsewhere, the effect is less strong, but rarely less enjoyable. Harmonies surge, loops gallop, synth FX babble, organs spiral, guitars chime and the rhythm duly claps. Only one track deviates from what has become a recognised format, and the maudlin piano of "All Myself" sounds more like an introspective art-house musical than a West coast knees up. Arguably, the ambient meandering that concludes "Death" could also be said to provide a taste of variety.
So while the Animal Collective-shaped hole has currently been filled by a better band, Versions, though perversely too consistent, ought to be strong enough to cause Lennox and company to glance over their (ahem) collective shoulder from time to time in the future.