The Indie Equation

The Unholy Marriage of Music and Math.


Equation #44: Times New Viking

Simulcast on Three Imaginary Girls

Times New Viking

Times New Viking
Rip it Off
Matador, 2008

“No, it’s not your stereo. It’s supposed to sound like that.”

Refreshing is a term that can mean a lot of things. As a child I remember being confused and slightly nauseated by beer commercials’ claim of “refreshment” from drinking a Rocky Mountain cold bottle of suds, and to a lesser extent the model’s choice of wearing a bikini beneath a snow parka while happily skiing the bunny slopes. When you’re nine years old a contest between a bright red, glistening GI Joe cup full of Kool Aid and a glass of foamy, foul smelling Hamm’s really is no contest at all. I’d gulp the sweet stuff any day and finish off with the obligatory breathless *gulp-aahhhhhhhh* as I wiped a pink stain onto the back of my wrist. Refreshing means different things to different people; a politician who seems to speak without prepared statements can be refreshing, a cool breeze up the leg of your gym shorts as you jog across hot pavement can be refreshing, and, yes, a tall pint of cold, foamy beer can be refreshing.

In the world of music “refreshing” can be just as subjective a modifier as “indie”, “prolific” and “relevant” when describing a band or sound. For instance, some eternally retro geeks out there consider the “DIY” or “Basement Tape” movement to be a breath of fresh air, as fresh as a breath from a musty old box of the past can be at any rate. They hail it as a return to form, a renaissance of the true independent nature of music; a simpler, purer era before ProTools and Autotune and horseless carriages. Ok, perhaps not that pure. Not that I’m in favor of every shaky-kneed upstart band being able to gloss their way into the mainstream with a few mouse clicks and knob turns, but it also seems presumptuous to make a stand against that rung skipping by refusing to record on anything more sophisticated than your uncle’s dusty old reel-to-reel unit. I mean, we get it: music was better on vinyl and it makes you seem so unique to have to special order the tubes for your amp because they stopped making them after Nixon left the White House.

Right, so what exactly has crawled up my ass to die? Well, Times New Viking’s new album Rip It Off to be specific, an album that’s name begs for a snarky comment but refuses to let me go there. After releasing two albums on the Slitbreeze label Times New Viking makes their big-boy debut on Matador and while a larger label might bring with it a larger production budget Columbus’ TNV has eschewed the payola and remained true to their ear-splittingly DIY roots. Rip It Off features track after track of crackle, hiss, fuzz and yelp layered like thick, thick frosting over a tasty cake of surprisingly solid pop songs. And that’s what may be the most infuriating thing about this album; that it’s not bad. That’s right, despite the vitriol I spewed above about bands making awfully recorded music just for the sake of hitting that “barely tolerable” bull’s-eye, TNV actually make great music. You just can’t tell through all the static. The tracks are short, about 2 minutes on average, and feel peppy and rambunctious, which is good, because if they were relying on the power of lyrics or nuance they definitely picked the wrong medium. No, the fuzz is the correct path and they use it masterfully, molding it into it’s own instrument, infecting your attention to the extent that during the last 30 seconds of “The End of All Things” when the fuzz abruptly stops leaving a muffled acoustic guitar and some sing-a-long vocals the sudden vacuum is as jarring as the start of the record. I can’t predict what a live Times New Viking show would sound and feel like, if they’re able to recreate the foot thick wall of static they put up on the album live I can imagine it would feel a bit like having the inside of your skull sand-blasted, but in an oddly good way.

While it certainly isn’t for everyone, or even a fraction of everyone, there’s still a select node of people out there that will pop in this album and either:
a. Turn it up to drive roaches, rodents, neighbors and low flying aircraft from their area.
b. Make claims about its mysteriously soothing properties as they sit in a bath chain smoking clove cigarettes.
c. Make tapes of it for everyone they know and gush to them about how “it’ll change the way you hear music, man”. or..
d. Have sex to it.

Those freaky freaks aside, there’s something to be said about just giving in to the power of the squelch. TNV have used whatever time they haven’t spent buying new speaker cones refining their songs and melodies. The result is a curiously infectious album of music that is both Guided-by-Voices catchy and as confusing and off beat as Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead. Each track is like a tiny meal of Pop Rocks and cola: it’s fizzy, crunchy, and sweet and in the back of your mind you wonder if you’re actually doing some kind of harm to yourself.


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