Oxford Collapse – Bits

Rating: ★★★★½

Throughout this summer, music fans have mostly been greeted by mellower forms of tunes, with an absence of rock coming our ways–and by this, I mean the kind of music with loud guitars and banging drums. Well folks, Oxford Collapse wants to change that.

As the car peels out in “Electric Arc,” the drums come banging in your ears. Soon, the guitar will join this fray, and off the band goes. It’s hard not to feel your heart beating a little quicker in this song. Nice start boys.

They follow that up with another short song full of angular guitars and simple melodies, but its done just the right way, throwing the band back to the classic post-punk sounds of the mid-90s–a la Braid and Jawbreaker. Then they come with a tension building song in “Vernon Jackson,” which builds up continuously through the song, only to have the band slow it down in the end as the song begins to fade out. It’s clear by this point that they have enough control over themselves to pull back the reigns at just the right time.

They just keep going from here, pushing their guitars into your ears, as the drums pound away. Oxford Collapse sound tighter than they have, and a lot more comfortable as well, which may be why they claim “we’re doing fine” in “Young Love Delivers.” But, then they throw a change up. “A Wedding” slows things down, and sounds as if they took a cue from Final Fantasy, using string instruments to back the strength of their vocals. Its a good breathing point.

Then they go right back to it–walls of feedback thrown right back into your face as they continue their rocking onslaught. For me, they seem really straightforward with their approach, and they don’t seem to go off into the distance of atmospherics and noise as they did on their last album.

Towards the end, they start to switch it up, and its for the betterment of the album. “Children’s Crusade” is a brilliant song, and one that will probably make a lot of my mixes throughout the year. “John Blood” similarly slows things down, at least during the chorus, where a female chants her way through the chorus. Still, there is enough guitar work on this song, to make it border between rocker and ballad. “B Roll” also takes a gentler approach, but that approach is matched again by the tension building of the guitar work.  I do wish that this time, they just would have unleashed that guitar completely, but for me, this is their first misstep.

They close it off with “I Hate Nobody” which isn’t immediately gratifying, but as you work your way through the end of the song, it wraps up the album perfectly. Anguished guitars fueled by the deliberately dense drumming, and finally, you can breathe. It’s over.

It’s hard to find much wrong with this record. Personally, I think the mix on the vocals had some issues in a few places, but for the most part, I just went along with the album. It’s enjoyable as you follow around each of the corners and twists and turns.  Let’s hope for more rock like this as we wrap up 2008.

Oxford Collapse returns to Austin on August 27th at The Mohawk, but as of yet, tickets are not readily available.

Have a listen to a new song from their album:

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/birthdaywars.mp3]

Download: Oxford Collapse – Birthday Wars [MP3]