“Empty Fields,” the opening track on The Oxford Collapse’s A Good Ground is only about 70 seconds long. It’s a bit of a tease, revving up just to come to a complete halt, yet works perfectly to elicit a head turn from the listener. In that minute, I was stunned. Expecting something not nearly as bombastic or instantaneously jarring, The Oxford Collapse burst right through my expectations and blew them to bits. Holy crap, these guys can tear shit up.
The four Brooklynites in The Oxford Collapse play a retro-leaning brand of jangly punk rock that owes a lot to both British and American influences in’70s and ’80s post-punk. Immediate ones that come to mind are the bombastic Bostonians in Mission of Burma, the UK’s celebrated art punks Wire and Athens, GA’s underrated Pylon. Like all of these bands, the OC (they really should of thought of that before they named themselves) keep it jagged, but jangly; melodic but menacing; aggressive but accessible. It’s a nice balance, as the band stores all their fury in how aggressive they play, rather than how much distortion they use. There’s lots of energy, but they filter it through scratchier sounding guitars, rather than the oft-overused overdrive on 11.
Like “Empty Fields,” follower “Prop Cars” is yet another slab of abrasive rock, yet it’s not until song three, “Last American Virgin,” that we actually hear some true melodicism. A lot of that is thanks to Adam Rizer’s basslines, which provide a vaguely funky and catchy quality to most of these tracks. One of the albums most unstoppable songs, “Dusty Horses Practice,” however, brings all of the elements together perfectly. Rizer’s melodic bass, Michael Pace’s delay-addled guitar and vocal yelps, and Dan Fetherston’s faux-disco beats add up to a tremendous song with huge single potential, should the band become a blip on any major media outlet’s radar.
The punk leanings are put aside temporarily on the mostly instrumental “Cracks in the Causeway” and the softer ballad “Flora Y Fauna,” a song that, though quieter, still retains the melodic edge and innovation that their louder tracks display so well. “Proofreading” is another particularly awesome track, with more dancey beats and Pace’s angular guitar riffs. You still can’t understand his wild howling, but it’s still a damn good time.
Just when it seemed like all the good punk rockers were disappearing, including many of the ones that just showed up, The Oxford Collapse have provided some relief in the form of a 12 truly awesome tracks. There’s nothing gimmicky here, nothing kitschy or trendy. This is rock `n’ roll, played by three New York gentlemen with the good graces to just let us rock.
Pylon – Chomp
Despistado – The People of and Their Verses
Mission of Burma – Vs.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.