FROM BANGOR TO NEW HAMPSHIRE When Particles Collide are on the move.
When Particles Collide, the duo probably most responsible for putting Bangor’s burgeoning music scene on the map, have headed south. Frontgal Sasha Alcott took a gig teaching chemistry at Exeter, and since drummer Chris Viner is also now her husband, it makes sense that he came with.
They celebrate the move with Ego, a five-song EP that is their most-polished effort yet and strong capitalization on the buzz generated by their debut full-length, Pop!Pop!Bang!Bang! There’s a lot to like here: Alcott’s big range, from aggressive growl to playful purr; smart lyrics and artful song construction; and a confident charisma that’s easy to follow.
And that whole chemistry-teacher thing isn’t just a cool piece of bio information. Their two-minute burner of a punk song, “Moles,” from the last album is not about burrowing mammals. It’s got to be the best song I’ve ever heard that includes Avogadro’s number. (Perhaps they’ll even gig some day at the bar Avogadro’s Number, in Fort Collins, Colorado. They’ve got great vegetarian options.)
Alcott plays on a different kind of chemistry in “Distraction,” a Skatalites-style tango that posits, “yes, we all need a furtive glance across the room.” As a closing number, it is fitting denouement, something more fun and playful after a heck of a lot of emotional turbulence.
“Not What I’m Under” is full-on bipolar, with heavy riffage alternating with chiming, esoteric dream-pop before going full R&B in the finish (okay, so maybe tripolar). It arcs into a middle portion with a truly lovely vocal turn on “Did you try to make something beautiful?,” with a punkish backstep that implies failure.
It’s hard not to draw parallels with the White Stripes/Black Keys on “Ego,” where the guitar lick is prominently featured and Alcott distorts her vocals in the verse before going clean in the chorus: “No, I won’t lay low.” Her climb into falsetto lends just enough playfulness to avoid coming off cold and calculating. Well, that and the hand-clap bridge that gives way to dueling guitar lines in the left and right channels.
This binary opposition comes to a head with “Finally Found the One” and “Perfect Teeth,” alternately an ode to a love found and a lament for a love lost. “Finally” is early metal, with a blues foundation and a muscled guitar part in the bottom, underneath chiming high-end. “It’s about time,” Alcott assures us, “I get what I wanted.” That vamp is rewarded with “Teeth,” what should be the single here, constructed as three-minute radio rock-pop. The emotion is belied by the bouncy tempo. “Do you talk to her like you talk to me?” Alcott accuses. “I think you do.”
She reaches down in the register for the chorus, which is more resigned than angry: “I can still picture your lying eyes.”
You know, those eyes in charge of the furtive glances. This is a band who like to have it both ways. Lucky for us.
Ego | Released by When Particles Collide | at the Lompoc Cafe, in Bar Harbor | Sept 14 | whenparticlescollide.com