Can the Oxford Collapse really afford to release a grower at this point in their career? I mean, even I, probably the definition of this band's key demographic (mid-20s indie-rock obsessive), had a hard time initially getting into their new record, Bits. It probably had something to do with the overwhelming desire for a follow-up to "Please Visit Your National Parks", which was featured on the band's last record, 2006s Remember the Night Parties, and currently stands as one of the decade's very best indie-rock songs. Perhaps realizing that they won't be able to scale that lofty peak once again, Oxford Collapse have instead embraced a subtler, less dynamic form of 80s college rock on this slow growing new record. So yes, Bits doesn't pummel you over the head with any out-and-out anthem, but it does unexpectedly worm it's way into your brain. For better or worse, Oxford Collapse are now coasting on good vibes and the always prevalent nostalgia inherent in each and every note they strike.
These guys still have that loose and tossed-off vibe of so many of their heroes, and when in service of well written songs, the band can still stumble upon some modest yet charming melodic ideas. These songs tend to blur together in a haze of beer, backyard BBQs and dorm room hi-jinks, but when they do happen to differentiate themselves from the whole - as they do on "Young Love Delivers", "Featherbeds", "Children's Crusade" and "B-Roll" - they pleasantly stroke forgotten pleasure centers of late night parties and carefree teenage living. With the absence of any true standout track though, Bits runs the risk of registering as a disappointment, when in reality it is more of a flat-line comedown from an incredible high point. For now, I'll go ahead and give a slight recommendation to Bits, while reiterating that in ten years Oxford Collapse could put out a heck of a retrospective comp.
Highlights: "Young Love Delivers", "Children's Crusade", "B-Roll"