Music

Oxford Collapse: A Good Ground

Jason MacNeil

Starting off badly but correcting itself quickly makes Oxford Collapse's new album a great leap from last go-round.


Oxford Collapse

A Good Ground

Label: Kanine
US Release Date: 2005-07-12
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Several bands attempt to show their wares by going through a myriad of styles for the sake of being arty or to convince people to occasionally sit up and take notice. At times it works, but more often than not you get the sense that you're being snowballed a bit in terms of actually seeing what the band can truly do. Oxford Collapse tends to fall into this category initially. But folks, it is only early, trust me! The group, which released Some Wilderness last year, wants to venture down this road, but the album gets off on the wrong foot with the quasi art rock-meets-rockabilly feel of "Empty Fields", which could have been re-titled "Empty Feels". Lead singer Mike Pace tries to come off like the Killers' Brandon Flowers but the overall effect is a bad mishmash, as if Tiger Army or Social Distortion were valiantly attempting to cover Talking Heads. Kudos for trying but this just doesn't work, even for the brief fleeting moment that it lasts. But don't give up hope, there are still 11 songs to go.

When Oxford Collapse whittled a song down to fit its strengths, it fares much better. "Prop Cars" should be given props because of the fact that it's powerful, high-energy, and musically tight thanks to the work of bassist Adam Rizer and the drumming of Dan Fetherston. People into Mission of Burma or a quirky, XTC-influenced group would lap this ditty up. Not anything you will hear on rock radio, but due to its being summed up and capped off in three minutes, it's an extremely effective song. And it is with the ensuing tune that Oxford Collapse shows what it can pull off. "Last American Virgin" could be heading down a dark, mysterious path, or one that is filled with the pomp and circumstance of a U2 anthem. However, the group forges a path that is a little to the left of the darker one, with a great series of indie or alt.rock riffs that propel it high over the bar like a classic Cure tune. Strong and sure to put a smile on your face, this effort makes you forget about "Empty Fields" quickly.

Listening to this record, you believe that Oxford Collapse is in some way channeling a genre that Franz Ferdinand once attempted but went the other, equally danceable route. "The Boys Go Home" has Pace singing and almost whining the words as a cross between Sting and Scottish darlings Dogs Die in Hot Cars. The chorus seems to come out of nowhere and is a gleam of sunshine on an already hot Police-like number. It's easily the album's crowning achievement, the jewel in an indie rock tiara. This bouncy rock domain continues on the arty but accessible "Dusty Horses Practice" which brings to mind Mission of Burma and Hot Hot Heat. The equine reference is also appropriate as the beat is like that of a galloping horse thanks again to the fine musicianship of Fetherston and his love of the high hat. Who doesn't love a good high hat, I ask you?

This is an album you're afraid to keep listening to for fear that you will be disappointed at the drop in quality. "Cracks in the Causeway" is airtight and shows no cracks or chinks of any kind; Oxford Collapse drives home this breezy but slowly intensifying pop tune. It sounds like a cross between the Strokes and Sonic Youth as the sugar-coated lilt seals the deal. And by this time you could be thinking that is it the Brooklyn area's answer to Spoon's Kill the Moonlight. The lone song that seems too forced or formulaic is the standard dance pop of "Proofreading", although "No Great Shakes" has very little hip-shaking moments within it.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image