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Oxford Collapse - Remember the Night Parties

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Artist: Oxford Collapse

Album: Remember the Night Parties

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Oct. 15, 2006

Oxford Collapse is from Brooklyn, but, if they ever wanted to move, they'd be right at home in Chapel Hill. Their third full-length and first on Sub Pop, is full of the kind of indie jangle cut with dissonance that Archers of Loaf pioneered, landing somewhere between Superchunk's fuzz-distorted pop and Polvo's muscular abstractions. A hasty A/B/C session finds Remember the Night Parties a little cleaner than Good Ground and a lot more grown-up than debut Some Wilderness, maybe due to indie heavy-weight John Agnello's presence (he's also a factor on the Hold Steady's latest). Still this is a record full of loose ends and fractious energy, not at all compromised by its move up the food chain.

The early video single "Please Visit Your National Parks," for instance, is all high strident eighth notes and pulsing intimations of bass, with singer Michael Pace reaching high, high up into his vocal register for a yodeling, joyous pop chorus. There's nothing revolutionary about the song itself, but it's supercharged, the melody like a worn down wire that's carrying too much current, fizzing and sizzling incandescently. "Lady Lawyers" sounds like an overdriven Minutemen song, its one-two beat pushing sardonic and politically incorrect observations about female movers and shakers. Then late in the cut, the guitar takes over, ringing and chiming and reverberating, turning sparse sarcasm into full-color pop. Just as good, in its hard-strummed, frantically paced way, is "Loser City," the cut where all those R.E.M. comparisons finally start to make sense. It's an early, fuzzy, bar-band version of Buck and Stipe, though, sounding a bit like "Radio Free Europe," until it breaks, mid-song, for a fragile moment. By then, you've hardly processed the fact that this is still the same song when the band rushes headlong into the previous chorus, pushing the speed until the drumkit almost falls to pieces right in front of you.

There are some relatively easy pop songs on Remember the Night Parties. The raucous count-down in "Your Volcano" is irresistible and instantly accessible (it might remind you, just a bit, of the White Stripes "Hotel Yorba"). Earlier in the CD, "Let's Vanish" turns almost slick in the way it rides glittery, stuttering guitar lines with a high melodic chorus. But this is a band that's always just a step away from falling apart, and by the end of "Let's Vanish," you can hear the drums slipping, ever so slightly off the guitar line. Incipient chaos gives these songs edge, and several of them finish in upheaval and disarray. You never know where they're going to end up, or what sort of shape the band will be in when they get there and that keeps you focused all the way through.

That may explain why the album's longest cut "Return of the Burno" doesn't drag and is, in fact, one of Remember the Night Parties's best. Its catchy, melodic chorus sinks into a foundation of fuzzy noise and discord. Its guitars glitter with Edge-like precision until they collapse into dissonance. Time signatures change and tempos shift. The song is never static or predictable, and there's always the chance that it might not work out. When it finally winds down, you breathe a sigh of relief that no one got hurt. And then you play it again.

By Jennifer Kelly

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