Brooklyn's We Are Scientists and Oxford Collapse sound an ocean apart | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Brooklyn's We Are Scientists and Oxford Collapse sound an ocean apart

A double bill of We Are Scientists and Oxford Collapse is a study in contrasts: Although both bands are Brooklyn-bred, they're an ocean apart stylistically. Signed to the British label Virgin Records, We Are Scientists sometimes seem peculiarly geared to the Isle, as if McDonald's started offering shepherd's pie and plenty of pissing English rain. Meanwhile, its counterparts Oxford Collapse hark back to indie music B.C. (before Cobain), with big wavering walls of distortion and a chunky pulse that recalls the days of Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and Archers of Loaf.

We are Scientists began in 1997, when frontman Keith Murray caught Dawson's Creek one evening in bassist Chris Cain's dorm room, while attending college in Claremont, Calif. They decamped to Brooklyn four years later and released a trio of EPs before signing to Virgin for their '05 debut, With Love and Squalor. Perfectly poised to ride the American breakers of the sudden dance-punk wave, their jittery, hi-hat rocking hit "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" shot up the British charts.

The follow-up, Brain Thrust Mastery, jettisons much of the pulpy Bloc Party throb for gloomy, atmospheric, synth-addled new wave (much like the Editors' second album), though Murray's faux British accent remains intact. Thank We Are Scientists for doing its part to improve the balance of trade with Great Britain; it's about time we recycled their music and sold it back to them.

If the Scientists -- for all its drunken tales -- are a bit buttoned-down stylistically, then Oxford Collapse is its laid-back, pot-smoking neighbor. There's a shambling shimmer to the staccato stabs of guitar that complements frontman Michael Pace's warbling tenor. The band's first two albums feature quirky, discursive messiness that splits the difference between post-punk clatter and the post-collegiate rock of Pavement and Silkworm.

Oxford Collapse's 2006 Sub Pop debut, Remember the Night Parties, opens more windows, easing up on the terse guitar figures in favor of blossoming hooks and broader, brighter arrangements, recalling at times the majesty of Built to Spill. Like a Ben & Jerry's concoction, it mixes chewy chunk, caramel rhythms and sugary ribbons of major-chord melody. The band's recently released fourth album, BITS, follows a similar trajectory, but feels even bigger, more confident and exultant. Thirteen terrific songs culled from an original batch of 30, it surpasses the high expectations set by the excess tracks released as 7-inch and 12-inch records earlier this year.


We Are Scientists with Oxford Collapse and Life in Bed. 6 p.m. (doors open) Mon., Aug. 11. Diesel, 1601 E. Carson St., South Side. $12 ($14 day of show). All ages. 412-431-8800 or

click to enlarge Cheeky buggers, just the same: Oxford Collapse
Cheeky buggers, just the same: Oxford Collapse

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