Oxford Collapse may be Sub Pop’s first Brooklyn signees, but the threesome share more in common with DIY punk bands on Sub Pop’s early-’90s roster than with the Brooklyn indie cognoscenti. The band’s loose, shambling pop-punk serves as a drunk kiss to youthful indiscretion — Oxford Collapse are that twentysomething guy at your college job who came to all your house parties, got messed up on your Blatz, passed out at 9:30 p.m., and the next day apologized profusely for pissing on your couch.
Bits, Oxford Collapse’s fourth album, is as much about real-world inebriation as the band’s previous album (2006’s Remember the Nights Parties) focused entirely on the subject. But it also finds the band concerned with what do after the party.
The album’s opening triptych sets the tone here. Opener “Electric Arc” is as loud and unruly as the motorcycle with a weak muffler that opens the track. “I can’t remember things/ I just don’t know what to do,” the band members yell over each other in a way that only feigns concern: These guys know what they did; they just don’t want to deal with it. “Wrong decisions/ get us blacklisted/ which one will rage tonight?” goes the chorus for the ramshackle “The Birthday Wars,” which sets the stage for the band’s concern over the affects of their partying on their adult lives. “Vernon Jackson” introduces a more tender side of the band, as an ambling beat propels the strum-along campfire session.
No track on the album is more tied up in youthful stupidity than “Young Love Delivers,” which chronicles a long road trip with a girlfriend. “We’re doing fine/ for our steady slow decline” is as close as the album gets to a mission statement, because then it’s back to banging out quick feedback heavy ditties like “For the Winter Coats” and “Men & Their Ideas.”
But when Oxford Collapse pull off the throttle, the results are remarkable, and the songs are perfect for soundtracking the nights the band can’t remember. “A Wedding” replaces guitars for 1890s strings that sound like they’re being played in a cabin, “Children’s Crusade” is a somber march with a glittery guitar figure, and “B-Roll” introduces a near power-ballad Oxford Collapse.
They are odd moments of maturity sandwiched in between songs paying homage to getting wasted and playing leap frog. It makes the album feel like it was recorded by the band in two different phases: one at night before parties, the other the morning after those parties. Just as the title character of sauntering album highlight “John Blood” finds himself in a South he no longer recognizes, the metaphor could extend to the band members themselves. They were once a young band living by the “We Jam Econo” ethos, and now they’re older, more refined, and ready to grow up. Bits is their first step.