Recalling a time when bands were about a few college friends playing guitars in a garage, off-beat drumbeats and a guy singing (maybe even two guys signing), Brooklyn's Oxford Collapse are a refreshing blast of nostalgia for a time when being in a band was about hanging out, having a good time and playing shows for friends - probably in the garden of a college pool-party, as the title and cover art of Remember The Night Parties might suggest.
Oxford Collapse are latest signing on Seattle's legendary Sub Pop label, and it's a fitting home. I'd place these guys somewhere between 80's post-punk from the likes of The Replacements and classic-era Sub Pop bands like Mudhoney. Bands from a time before 'Alternative' was a genre on your iPod. With the multiple attack force of Michael Pace and Adam Rizer on vocals, this three man band are all rhythm and chorus with barely a lead guitar break in sight.
Following on from two albums on the New York indie label Kanine, Sub Pop roped in John Agnello for production duties (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.), and the bands first album in a top-end studio has yielded superb results. Where their previous album A Good Ground had a dilapidated, shambling charm, it was lacking some focus - and although their press release still describes the bands live shows as 'shambolic,' the issue has certainly been addressed here.
Following the gentle breaking-in of He'll Paint While We Play, Please Visit Your National Parks (mp3 here) sets the tone for a childhood summer style trip out to The Lake. Loser City ups the pace, with the most Mudhoney-esque track on the album firmly positioning the album in the Super 8 soaked memories of childhood, proclaiming "Broke your projector, incurred expense."
However, the album's best point is also it's worst - it's all rhythm and chorus with barely a lead guitar break in sight. Coming up to half way through it begins to drag slightly... but just when I started to lose interest is when it really picks up, making what would have been Side-B in the old days the preferred choice - an uncommon situation with most albums. The most successful tracks are those which sway from the standard MO - going instead for a less homogenised whole and building the sound of the songs on much more varied, simpler and punchy frameworks.
The high strung guitars, stuttering drums and wailed-verse -vs- chorus-wailing of Lady Lawyers make for an obvious college radio favourite, that ratchets up the pressure over the absurd lyrics. A string of great tracks follow, from the escapist Let's Vanish, through the military drumming of Kenny Can't Afford It, and the down-tempo hazy remembering of Forgot To Write to the sing-a-long name-checking finale of Your Volcano.
Evocative, narrative lyrics coupled with a sea of guitars build the sound of this world, and rather than just music or just lyrics it is the overall approach that creates the nostalgic mood. A world where if John Hughes was directing Oxford Collapse would definitely be playing in the punker's bar on the wrong side of the tracks - and they'd probably turn up as the band at the prom too, wearing shabby tuxedos and forcing the preppies to let themselves go.