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Album Review
Strangers Again

Strangers Again
by Collapsing Cities

Pastel Pistol

Review Date
17th September 2012
Reviewed by
Nich Cunningham

At the risk of resorting to cliché, this album has been a long time coming. Four years is an eternity in the fluid and rapidly changing world of popular music so Collapsing Cities third release and second album Strangers Again is aptly titled. The band enjoyed a high profile back in 2008, scored a management deal in London and went to the UK to pursue various opportunities. The following year they returned to New Zealand and seemed to vanish. There were persistent rumors of a new album yet as time went by it was easy to believe the band would simply become a historical curiosity. But after an incubation period that rivals even Steely Dan, Collapsing Cities have in fact returned and the evidence suggests their time away has not been wasted.

This album is more sophisticated and mature than Collapsing Cities’ earlier work. While the same Prozac Pop tropes of humiliation and social malfunctions are present, Strangers Again often looks deeper than mere story telling and revels a darker edge than was apparent on Elixir Always. This is perhaps best exemplified by 'Regret', which along with 'Tazers' marks the album’s creative high water mark.  This maturation is not limited to subject matter: sonically this album is denser, more layered and polished than its predecessor. But the connection to the past has not been completely severed: 'Queue for the Queue' and 'Evacuation Plan' recall Collapsing Cities’ dance punk pedigree and tend to illustrate the advances the band has made stylistically since then. It is the introduction of new elements such as the Morrisey-esque styling’s of 'Favours for Favours' or the steady crushing depression of 'This Mes's that prevent this album from merely repeating the previously successful formula. Perhaps the time taken to make this record gives it a sense of compilation rather than amalgamation, but what this album arguably lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in variety and tenacity.

Strangers Again is practically the definition of the difficult second album. While maintaining a connection to Collapsing Cities’ history, it hints at a new trajectory that if pursued could produce a remarkable third album.  But that is not to say this one is not good: it demonstrates a steady advancement and has some great material. That Collapsing Cities have been away so long has dislocated them from their local scene but that has provided them with a freedom to take chances creatively. This factor is part of what sets them apart from their contemporaries.


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