January 16, 2008

Times New Viking – Rip It Off

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 11:14 pm

[Matador; 2008]

By now you should know the story of Times New Viking, but if you don’t, here’s a brief bit. They’re a lo-fi indie-pop/punk trio from Columbus, and they’ve been around for a few years now. In 2005, they put out a record called Dig Yourself on Siltbreeze, a previously defunct seminal noise-pop/experimental rock label that founder Tom Lax is said to have resurrected with the primary directive of releasing a Times New Viking album. The label has since risen to a position of eminence among noise-pop/experimental rock listeners. In 2007 the band agreed to put out records on Matador. Rip It Off is their first LP for the label, and third LP overall.

People were actually worried when Times New Viking signed to Matador. That was a ridiculous thing to happen for a couple of reasons. First of all, how was Matador ever gonna force Times New Viking to “clean up” their sound? More importantly, why would Matador force Times New Viking to “clean up” their sound? We are talking about the traditional home of everything this band holds dear – Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, imports from Flying Nun Records, etc. The label and the band both know well that the fuzzy shit, the almost brutal layers of noise, is absolutely essential to what is Times New Viking. I mean, obviously the band writes killer pop songs, but what the hell are they as a group without the noise? What is the point. We feed off of the balance the band hits between the sugary, simple melodies and the fucked-up, blown-out distorted production. That contrast is what excites us, that is what gets us going. That is what punk music is, and we are young people.

But that is all more or less beside the point, because when you actually play Rip It Off, if you’re a reasonable person, Times New Viking will demolish your worries over their potential sell-out. Granted, it is certainly their most accessible LP yet. I can’t deny that. This is by far their most obviously catchy crop of tunes yet (literally, all of these songs catch like crazy). They are not subtle songs. They don’t sneak up on you. Times New Viking meant to write fucking anthems when they put this record together, and it shows. Just look at the song titles. “Teen Drama”, “RIP Allegory”, “Drop Out”, “Relevant Now”, “End of All Things”. Those are all gigantic song titles. The titles that reference things outside of the band, like “Come Together”, “Off the Wall”, and “Times New Viking Vs. Yo La Tengo”, are even bigger. I mean, they call a track “The Early 80s” for Christ’s sake. The two chords that open “(my head)” are so big and dumb and beautiful that you will have to pump your fist in the air when it comes on, then later you will have to sing, “I need more money ‘cause I need more drugs,” along with the band, whether or not you’ve ever heard the song before, and whether or not you even care about drugs. This music is meant to reach the listener immediately, not in some sneaky way.

Of course, it’s difficult to tell if the band is genuine in their blatant appeals to adolescence. But to an extent, it doesn’t matter because the music rocks and I can let it overtake my thinking brain. That reminds me, this record definitely rocks harder than any other Times New Viking record yet. It’s nosier than ever, but the overall sound is much fuller than that of their old records, basically because there is actually a bit of low-end. As a result, everything (the noise, the kick drums, the organ, and the guitar solos), hit harder and heavier. Finally, these guys have a “huge” sound to match their huge ideas.

I love it, because, like the Pooh Sticks, they are not afraid to swipe ideas from all over the history of pop music culture, reappropriate them, and, using “Rip it off and start again,” as their mission statement, kind of make them their own in a way that is simultaneously ironic and heartfelt. But Times New Viking manages to one-up the Pooh Sticks because a kid could totally understand this record without getting all the references and cheeky shit. What Times New Viking seems to be selling (and they’re selling it hard), is that it doesn’t matter that they namedrop or make big, obvious songs and grandiose statements, or rip off of other bands, or even whether they mean any of it, because Rip It Off could legitimately be a regular kid’s favorite record, and because this is how they think music should sound. And I think that they’re right.

Hear “(my head)” and other assorted Times New Viking songs here:

Buy Times new Viking records from these labels:

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