Times New Viking Born Again Revisited

[Matador; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles:  lo-fi
Others: The Urinals, No Age, Guided By Voices

At the front lines of the quietly heralded lo-fi renaissance, Ohio’s Times New Viking entered the upper tiers of indie-relevance with their 2008 Matador debut Rip It Off – which itself followed two full-length releases for the respected, if obscure Siltbreeze label – at roughly the same time that acts like No Age and Wavves were issuing their own static-blanched pop songs to like acclaim. But like most mini-movements fueled by web-hype and coincidence, it wasn’t long before the indie consciousness moved on.

So what to do if you’re Times New Viking, a band with an established aesthetic, thrust into wider awareness and just as quickly lumped into a sub-sub-subgenre already past the hype-backlash cycle?

Apparently, you release your most tuneful album to date.

This isn’t to suggest that Times New Viking have shaken off the woolly amp-fuzz under which they’ve always cloaked effortless twee-pop, only that the pop songs are now as distinguishable as the noise, particularly in the clear tonality of Beth Murphy’s keyboards. Jared Phillips’ guitar still roars through a fog of distortion, barely enunciating chords, much less melodies, as drummer Adam Elliott and Murphy’s voices still crackle through cheap mics as they cross in and out of each other’s paths hardly in harmony and hardly in unison, yet somehow more pleasant than dissonant. The lyrics, once entirely incomprehensible, start to reveal themselves here, particularly in the sing-along choruses of songs like de facto single “No Time, No Hope.”

Indeed, the band still swabs its decks with warped cassette screeches and stomps through searing feedback, but when it counts, Times New Viking peel back the noise and show the confidence of a band growing beyond its rudimentary, drenched-in-feedback beginnings. Faced with the inevitable problem of how to evolve when the established sound of the band is decidedly simple, Times New Viking neither regress nor abandon their origins, offering instead a compromise where the harsh timbres commingle with increasingly more adept proclivities for memorable pop songs. In the past, it felt like a battle between noise and pop; now – finally – it feels like noisy pop.

One would hope Times New Viking never fully emerge from the basement, never trade their prickly sonic makeup for something smoother and easier to swallow – the noise suits them too well. But as the songs develop into ever-catchier beings, those harsh textures are less the focal point of the songs. Which, really, isn't necessarily something to lament.

1. Martin Luther King Day
2. I Smell Bubblegum
3. City on Drugs
4. Born Again Revisited
5. Little Word
6. No Time, No Hope
7. Half Day In Hell
8. Something Moore
9. 2/11 Don’t Forget
10. These Days
11. (No) Sympathy
12. High Holidays
13. Hustler, Psycho, Son
14. Move To California
15. Take The Piss

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