Brooklyn trio Oxford Collapse thrives on blurring the lines of preconceived notion.
The very name of the group would more appropriately befit an angst-ridden screamo band than the rousing art-pop atmosphere of its latest Sub Pop full-length, Bits. "Our drummer hates the name, but it's our lot in life," laughs vocalist and guitarist Mike Pace. "I like the idea of something that makes you think you already know what it is, but in reality you can't quite put your finger on it."
That interplay between identity and aesthetic is an essential part of the Oxford Collapse experience. Together with bassist Adam Rizer and drummer Dan Fetherston, the group fleshes out sharp pop songs that move with swift and unfettered velocity. Bits is an exercise in brevity that brings the group's saga to a fine point. Whereas past albums attracted praise for convoluted rock arrangements, the new album is the result of laborious cutting.
Bits was originally conceived as a sprawling double album of overly indulgent workouts. But somewhere along the way the plans changed. Clocking in at just more than 38 minutes, Bits makes a point of keeping things simple. Songs such as "The Birthday Wars" and "Vernon-Jackson" both clock in at less than three minutes each, and the slightly longer "For The Winter Coats" is packed with hooks and melodies that stick and move. By design the album carries an allegiance to the terse post-punk of Wire and the blast of energy perfected by the Minutemen, all wrapped in a quirky, indie-rock hue.
"We wanted to strip it down to just the essential parts of the songs and be very economical with the melodies and the structures," Pace adds. "Brevity was important. I don't think the world wants an epic double album of Oxford Collapse songs."
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Now I'm even more glad I didn't go.