Saturday, September 13, 2008

Oxford Collapse -- Bits (2008)

Oxford Collapse -- Bits (Sub Pop)

The Collapse’s second Sub Pop effort shows that this veteran band has an inexhaustible supply of offbeat indie pop tunes. They continue traveling down the path of smart and slightly bent rockers like The Embarrassment, Big Dipper, Hypnolovewheel, New Radiant Storm King and Archers Of Loaf.

The album gets off to a galloping start on "Electric Arc". With fast drumming and strumming and jangling guitar leads moving the tune along, Michael Pace sings over and over, "I can’t remember things, I just don’t know what to do." The song mentions "father’s agenda" and walking "six and half, maybe more." It’s a bit cryptic, but whatever he is singing about, it doesn’t sound good. The intensity of the music keeps it all humming.

On a number of songs, the Collapse whip up a good head of steam and don’t stop. "For the Winter Coats" starts off a bit quietly before the guitars get swirling and dirty. The song moves towards a strong hook in the chorus, but the band plays like it is always on the verge on just flying out of control. The lyrics again sketch out only part of a story, but are consistently engaging, my favorite being: "You got so excited for the coming of gold/that you blew your load on your winter coat."

The band’s frenetic pace makes "A Wedding" a real treat. The band works with strings and shows that the songs are always there underneath the frenzy (or lack thereof). Even in this controlled environment, the group's choral vocals are pretty unrestrained. You can’t totally tame the Collapse.

On "Men & Their Ideas", the band hits some real ‘80s jangle rock territory. The backing track features a prominent walking bass line over some jangling guitars and splashing drums. The vocal is herky and jerky, as the melody follows the rise and fall of the bass line, sounding pleasant and sour at the same time.

Dynamics work their magic on "Young Love Delivers", which is an insistent mid-tempo number. The verse slows and cools down, before picking up into pure rock territory with absolute gusto. The band knows how to write a conventional song and knows enough in how to add some twists. Yet these guys still can come up with a masterful middle eight.

This record exudes a real confidence. Having gotten deserved national exposure through its first Sub Pop album, this band has its sound down and the trio plays with so much enthusiasm and intelligence. The Oxford Collapse will never reach the heights of The Shins or Rogue Wave, but I hope this band gets a sizable audience -- something that has eluded many of the bands who played this kind of stuff in the past.

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