Let's say you're Oxford Collapse in the year 2002, thus making you a newly formed band from Brooklyn, where, like today, there were no shortage of newly formed bands. You find yourself in a quagmire of innumerable local outfits naming themselves after a plural noun and mining the very last morsels of worth from the first wave of angular post-punk and '80s electro-pop.
How do you stand out in this mess? Well, you gain some attention with two albums (2004's Some Wilderness and 2005's A Good Ground) of the well-crafted post-punk that your neighbors are also producing. Then, when it comes time to hit your stride, instead of ripping off the Gang of Four, Wire, or Television, you instead unveil a sound based on your true love of late-'80s/early-'90s indie rock.
The Oxford Collapse hit this stride with 2006's focused Remember the Night Parties, an album that just might launch a resurgence of interest in un-hip gold like late-'80s Homestead outfits the Volcano Suns and Big Dipper, the heyday of New Zealand's Flying Nun label (the Clean, the Verlaines, the Bats), and the poppier early days of Sub Pop, the very label the band now calls home.
"We all came of age during a time when you found out about more obscure or underground bands through reading fanzines, going to shows, watching movies, or hearing about stuff from older kids," says Oxford Collapse vocalist and guitarist Michael Pace. It was all about the "thrill of the hunt."
So true, so true. Today's indie nerd can simply jump on the Internet, absorb some select blogs and sites, watch The O.C., and spend a month or two downloading a complete frame of reference, whereas the older fanatics had to actually enter record shops and purchase music sound-unheard after dirtying their knees (not that way, perv!) pulling out cheap LPs that wooed us simply because they were on a trusted label.
"Even though people were starting to get into America Online or whatever by the mid-'90s, there were no Internet resources for this kind of stuff, at least to my knowledge," Pace says. "There was no instant gratification of hearing about some band and then just downloading a song to find out if you like it. The payoff was that much sweeter when you finally found that record you'd been hearing about or if you just stumbled across a diamond in the rough in the bargain bin."
Remember the Night Parties is the perfect medicine for those who lament the lack of guitar-heavy indie greatness that was once so prevalent. Aside from ethereal album-opener "He'll Paint While We Play," synths are largely absent from the affair (they played a more prominent role on Oxford Collapse's two previous full-lengths) and appropriate producer John Agnello (Jawbox, Buffalo Tom, Sonic Youth, the Hold Steady) lends his know-how to the best update of 1992 we're likely to enjoy all year.
It might sound like I'm waxing nostalgic on sounds that have been swept under the rug, but the forgotten sonic adventurism of 15 years ago will most certainly be a hot topic in no time. I predict that reissues will be saturating the horizon and gobbled up incessantly. For this precise moment, however, Remember the Night Parties will offer a fix for those who have been known to drunkenly exhume beat-up Archers of Loaf LPs. (Take a gander at Remember's "Molasses.")
Touring with Oxford Collapse is Thunderbirds Are Now!, a band incorrectly referred to as "Detroit freak-out artists" on Allmusic.com. (They got the Detroit part right.) Their songs are very short, if that qualifies as "freaking out," and in contrast to Oxford Collapse, they do in fact create music that is heavily influenced by angular post-punk, but they do it right by making memorable, breathless girl-boy one- and two-minute blasts. Prolific since 2002, with four albums in as many years, Thunderbirds Are Now! put a loud and hyperactive spin on post-punk, which is no easy task in 2007.