After a while, grief settles. It finds a spot, somewhere in the back of your heart, circling itself a few times like a cat before laying down for a long nap. You forget it’s there, until something wakes it up and brings it to the front of your mind. A random photo on social media might trigger it. A little trinket. A stray joke. The clothes someone is wearing. A few moments of a song is all it takes to put someone you’ve tucked safely away in your memory right back in the present.
Or, in the case of When Particles Collide’s new EP, “This Town,” it’s six songs. Six songs, about two people I knew; about my life and my community and my home. Six songs about the fallout from an awful day last summer that, when I listen to this album, feels just as real and raw as it did when I saw the Facebook post telling me Roxanne Papken and Phill Carter, dear friends and employees of Paddy Murphy’s in downtown Bangor, had died in a car crash on Route 1A in Ellsworth.
Drummer Chris Viner and singer-guitarist Sasha Alcott from When Particles Collide, both Bangor natives, are two of my close friends. Everybody mentioned, both specifically and abstractly, in the lyrics on this EP are people I know and love. Hell, it even obliquely refers to me and my husband. “This Town” is about my town. Our town. Bangor. My heart.
So this isn’t really a review — how can I critique something like this? — but rather a remembrance, in the way that “This Town” is. Yes, it’s a continuation of WPC’s gradual evolution, from lo-fi power-pop duo to heavy, powerful, technically precise rock band, a strong addition to their growing catalog of well-produced albums, including 2013’s “Ego” and 2014’s “Photoelectric.” Yes, it continues to feature Viner’s huge, expressive drumming and Alcott’s knack for both vocal hooks and meaty, catchy guitar riffs, a dynamic combination. With “This Town,” however, some of that slick pop sheen is burnished away by heady emotion, as on “Storm Cloud,” which pairs metal guitars and booming drums with Alcott’s pained howl, or on the dark, angular “Ancient Future,” full of little details about two people we knew and loved.
Like I said, I can’t really review this. It’s too close to me. All I can do is note that each time I’ve listened to it — seven or eight times at this point, plus a couple live shows — I’ve felt all sorts of things. That old grief, stirring from slumber and forcing its way back to the forefront. Sadness, of course. Love, for my friends and my community, bruised but unbroken, and stronger than ever. And even a little bit of pride, that two of our own will hit the road this summer, touring across the country, playing songs about Bangor to hundreds, maybe thousands of people, spreading the word about our friends and this town to people who otherwise would never know. If that’s not a fitting tribute, I don’t know what is.
When Particles Collide will play two record release shows for “This Town” this weekend, including Friday, May 29 at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA, with guests Butterknife, Mad Anthony and The Color And Sound, and Saturday, May 30 at the Asylum in Portland, with guests Mad Anthony, Theodore Treehouse and Volcano Rabbit. For more information, visit whenparticlescollide.com.