If The Oxford Collapse were to be the soundtrack at any “night parties,” those celebrations would most likely not be the V.I.P. Room, Cristal, Timberlake and P. Diddy sort. I would also venture to guess that they would also not be the late summer rooftop kind, such as the setting where Steve Urkel unleashed his now infamous goofball signature dance. No, these parties would be the mid-80s winter break from college in either New England or Athens, GA kind, card tables topped with cheap beer, skinny white kids flailing about and awkward romances being born. Well, they couldn’t actually be in the mid-80s, as the trio of gentlemen in The Oxford Collapse would have been mere children, but on Remember the Night Parties, they do a hell of a job casting such an atmosphere.
As on their previous album, A Good Ground, The OC’s latest finds the Brooklyn trio gushing forth with manic punk rock energy, recalling Wire, Mission of Burma, and even early R.E.M. Yet with the move to Sub Pop this time around, The Oxford Collapse gets a slight makeover, their fuzzy post-punk social taking a turn toward hi-fi. The guitars, while still as abrasive as they should be, have the right amount of production polish to make their jangle just a little bit more bright and glimmering. In fact, just to prove how much they’ve cleaned things up, they begin the album with a gentle, waltzing ballad titled “He’ll Paint While We Play.” The arpeggiated riffs, charmingly limited vocal range and fairly straightforward arrangement make certain that this is the same band, but with a shower, a shave and maybe a teeth whitening too.
With “Please Visit Your National Parks,” the energy and fuzz of before returns, as does the endearing full-band yelps from Dan Fetherston, Michael Pace and Adam Rizer. The real momentum doesn’t fully pick up until track three, “Loser City,” an urgent punk rocker that most closely resembles Wire circa Pink Flag. The group even injects some playful humor into their seamless rhyme scheme: “There were a couple of cops who, just for a laugh/ gave us resistance, then let us pass.” Peter Buck style riffs abound on “For the Khakis and the Sweatshirts,” though the falsetto vocals take the opposite direction that Michael Stipe would have back in R.E.M.’s early years.
The eight minute “Return/of Burno” marks the band’s longest song to date, and a strong composition overall. Insistent and rocking, the group takes the opposite direction that most would, starting out fast rather than slowly building up into a climax. However, The Collapse splits the songs into different sections, slowing it down then trailing into a dreamy conclusion. No song better demonstrates the bands forward progression better than “Let’s Vanish,” a pop gem that stands up to recent singles by Bloc Party or The Futureheads, with no clear chorus, but winning verses with lines like “let’s take a field trip to anywhere special,” maintaining their playful nature but propelling themselves toward something bigger. The whole of Remember the Night Parties certainly does indicate that bigger things are on the way for this band, particularly considering the catchy appeal of songs like the rousing closer “In Your Volcano.” For a band this scrappy and quirky, it’s hard to deny the maturity and sharpened skills that they bring forth.
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.