Musical trends have the life span of sea monkeys in 2009. Blogging compresses musical timelines to a fraction of a second as we all know. Last summer Deerhunter, Women, No Age, and the newly formed Wavves were on the forefront of critics best-of-lists or on the receiving end of harsh derision. These bands buried their skeletal pop hooks and unabashed love for imported Garage Rock under audaciously bad recording equipment and the vicious pale of tape hiss. By this time, however, Times New Viking were elder statesmen in the scene that they didn’t even realize they helped form. After shredding ear-drums on renowned noise label Siltbreeze for 3 years they jumped ship to quasi-major Matador in an impeccably timed move. 2008’s “Rip it Off” was received warmly by major music publications and by critics across the board.
Fast forward 2009. Summer is over folks. Fall is here. The Lo-Fi revolution of 2008 is pretty much lurching towards its languished death. The previous mentioned bands have either jumped to major labels (Sub-Pop, Fat Possum), suffered rock star breakdowns (Wavves), or have stepped out from beneath their gauze of terrible recording equipment (Iran). The Lo-Fi aesthetic has been appropriated into other genres, namely through synth heavy dance music (JJ, Neon Indian, Javelin) This is exactly the same trajectory that Grunge went through. But that took 10 years and spanned two decades.
So, with the Lo-Fi revolution going the way of Prog Rock, why would a new album by Times New Viking matter in 2009? Well, to quote T.I “I run this city, clearly”. (Replacing, of course, the subject “I” with Times New Viking). Times New Viking, in a sense, typify and represent the best qualities of the whole sound. Times New Viking don’t just write catchy pop punk songs and then bang them out on a drunken night on some cheap analog recording equipment. (Or maybe they do). The reverb and tape hiss are utilized just as naturally as Sonic Youth buries major chord riffing under layers of feedback or the way My Bloody Valentine uses layers and layers of reverb to create a terrifyingly huge wall of sound.
While casual or first time listeners may be taken aback at first listen by the grating quality of the massive amount of noise being captured and processed through 20 year old technology, just beneath the surface there are some delicious things happening. First, these guys can write hooks. Hooks the Kinks would be jealous of. The resurgence of Brix Smith’s Hammond organ credits the Zombies and the Thirteenth Floor Elevators as sonic co-conspirators “No Time, No Hope” and “Move to California” have the sneering brashness of Scandinavian Garage bands mixed with the in your face nihilism of Black Flag. Good luck trying to get these songs out of your head. The tune craft and pop sensibilities have always floored me. If not apropos for the kind of racket being made at least they give you something to come back to.
Second, these guys know how to rock out. I saw them in a tiny venue (more of a garage) on a cold February night in 2008. I am still getting my hearing back. Mark Ibold had a tattoo that said Led Zeplin – Zeppelin, apparently a botched tattoo attempt. Spiky, discordant punk songs have always carried a little bit more piss and vinegar when male/female voices trade each stinging barb. “Born Again Revisited” has them in spades thankfully. If you feared the unknown on “Born Again Revisited, “(No) Sympathy” and “Something Moore” will assuage even the most ardent noise purest.
The case for the relevance of Times New Viking in an era of musical genres that are marked for expiration at the date of conception is one of originality. Times New Viking started in 2005 as a rejection of overly polished, self-indulgent indie rock careerism. They formed, in spite of themselves, as a rejection against the same success that has been dogging them since 2005. 4 years later and everyone is wondering what Times New Viking’s next move is going to be. They just turned everything up to 10 and didn’t touch a dial.