The key thesis statement for Times New Viking’s Over & Over comes on the first song, the lines “Falling further behind […] /Head fully in hands/ Frustrated,” and their occurring permutations, such as “Head fully in hands/ Not thinking.” It’s from these lines that TNV push their creative and aesthetic frustrations, their uncompromising slackerism being at odds with both cultural and commercial advancement. It’s no surprise to find this EP released on their former label Siltbreeze after hopping to/from Matador and Merge, “indie” labels that court a mainstream approach. As label execs were impatiently tapping their feet, waiting for TNV to clean up their act, the band pressed on adamantly with their lo-fi pop hobbyhorse sound. So where has their refusal to move forward, change, or evolve landed them? Right back where they started, head fully in hands, frustrated.
This isn’t to say that Over & Over doesn’t find TNV in the top of their form, but for them, it’s a tried and true recipe that’s hard to ruin, and as predictable as the move for a band into the realms of hi-fi, it’s probably the only way TNV are going to set themselves up to either succeed or fail fabulously. I can’t help but lament that they missed out on an ultimate “fuck you” opportunity to their former labels: by releasing an incredibly polished album on a label that doesn’t push such an agenda. It’d be like replacing all the shit stolen from your house with the same exact items, but cast in pure gold and platinum. Even at the short length of an EP (Over & Over clocks in at a little over 16 minutes in six songs), it would seem like a tease, a sampling of what they could have done on their previous forays into higher profiles.
But maybe it’s my frustration with their refusal to change that shows the success in their stubbornness. Maybe it’s everyone who believes that this band needs to progress that is missing out on a point they’re trying to make: that lo-fi is not the stepping stone to hi-fi, that it’s as much a part of the process and aesthetics as playing a guitar is, or that taking non-progression as strictly as they do to show that the fidelity skuzz is the main thing that separates them from the rest of the world of polished indie pop. It also feels too nitpicky to berate them for being consistent, considering punk bands of the past that have made consistency a manifesto of their most remarkable work (think Ramones, Guitar Wolf). But Over & Over really feels like the sound of defeatism. There’s nowhere left to go, no new formulas to try, so here’s more of the same for the sake of such.
While I don’t believe in progress solely for progressiveness’ sake, it’s also hard to back up the inverse. But a natural progression can make things interesting, as in seeing what a band can do creatively when they make the inevitable moves into the upper-fi’s. In some cases, it exposes the songwriter’s weaknesses (Best Coast’s new one), or it can expose their strengths in ways unforeseen. If lo-fi is the act of stripping the excess away, hi-fi could be the process of stripping the excess baggage of depending on one’s fidelity choices to carry their torch. Something akin to a restart would feel more like a return to genesis, but Over & Over feels like a trip through some old stomping grounds after being no less than three days out.