Oxford Collapse clearly has studied the last 20-some years of indie music history, and the band's members seem to have amassed quite a body of knowledge in the short span of their 20-something years. The three musicians (guitarist Michael Pace, drummer Dan Fetherston and bassist Adam Rizer) met during a New York University study-abroad program in London and then, after graduation, hung around the Big Apple, relocating to the uber-hip environs of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In short order, they signed to Kanine Records and released a well-received album, Some Wilderness. The record caught the attention of not only the usual music blog nerds and alt-weekly rock crits, but it also lit a fire in the ears of the A & amp;R department at Sub Pop, one of the most venerable indie labels around.
At the risk of getting all Us Weekly on you, I'll quote a source close to the band (OK, a friend of mine who happens to be a huge fan): "I was really worried when they signed to Sub Pop, because I had horrible visions of them turning into Mudhoney." Luckily, a quick listen to their hot-off-the-record-release-party record, Remember the Night Parties, put his fears to rest. The Oxford Collapse had not sold out and gone the way of "as-featured-on-The-OC"; rather, they took advantage of their increased budget and access to nifty production by tightening their sound. Their first single, the civic-minded "Please Visit Your National Parks" is all about showing off Pace's guitar virtuosity, and he takes the opportunity to shred like a hopped-up Hendrix. "Kenny Can't Afford It" is the record's drum track, with Fetherson doing some spiffy roll action, and "Forgot To Write" finds the bassist leading the way and getting all emo about lost connections. Despite all the strong tracks, the highlight of the album is "For the Khakis and the Sweatshirts," a snarky shout-out to frat boys who love Ice Cube.
Live, Oxford Collapse come across as calm and confident, an interesting contrast to their frenetic music. They clearly have fun and bounce all over the stage, but never fall prey to sloppiness. I caught their record release show in front of what might be one of the tougher crowds out there: a room full of Williamsburg hipsters (the worst kind) in an art gallery. The band, though, seemed unfazed by this challenge. By the time they were three songs into their set, the audience was going out of its collective mind. Meaning this: Oxford Collapse has commandeered a perfect storm of energy, charisma and technical skill. Now all they have to do is convince some skeptical crowds that they have what it takes wear the crown of the next great Sub Pop band.
Oxford Collapse at Empyrean on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at 8 pm.
Tickets: TBA. Call 456-3676.