Times New Viking - Rip It Off

Matador, 2008
[rating:7/10]

Times New Viking are the future. They’re not my future, they’re probably not your future, but they are the future. Rip It Off is their third album and first on Matador records as their latest darlings.

The title could be interpreted as an invitation to, or a connect the dots as to how. The DIY blueprints are there — short songs, vague titles, shouted vocals, minimalist recording values, piercing distortion overpowering all. Times New Viking could be perceived as ripping off Pavement and Guided By Voices, but that’s akin to slapping your brother for ripping off your father. They are the children of the next lo-fi revolution, borne between the grooves of Pavement’s Slay Tracks and Guided By Voice’s Alien Lanes.

These are kids still learning to walk when Slanted and Enchanted came out. Their sound is so lo-fi that the only way you can get any lo-er is if you crowded in front of a fisher-price cassette deck and pushed a drumstick on the fat red record button. This is so lo-fi that it hurts my ears. This is so lo-fi that it buzzes and crackles in a war between noise and melody, resonating with a “fuck, are my speakers broken?” dissonance, giving an end result that’s practically unlistenable. There are hints of catchy songs, intentionally sabotaged underneath all that white noise, fighting their way to be heard. Rip It Off treads a fine line between being the worst thing I’ve heard all year and the best.

History lesson: Formed in Columbus, Ohio in 2005. Jared Phillips on guitar, Adam Elliott on drums/vocals, and Beth Murphy on keyboards/vocals. Their first two albums, 2005’s Dig Yourself and 2007’s Present the Paisley Reich were released on indie label Siltbreeze. Essentially home recorded versions of what you hear here, except the 4 track is now an 8 track and the TDK 90 is 2 inch tape. A firm handshake and few extra bucks from a big indie label has done nothing to subvert their sound, which Matador honcho Chris Lombardi confirms: “they sound like shitting in a tin can but there’s pop gems buried among it all.”

For all the incumbent noise, Times New Viking are probably the freshest breath in the stalest of scenes and the first decent Matador signing since Mission of Burma (does that really count?) and the first serious guitar-led band (you laptop noiseniks are excluded) to take the trust-fund/private school kids to task and show it ain’t all about musical chops and fancy gloss. Throw in ex-labelmates Psychedelic Horseshit (how I wish I had thought of that name) and California’s No Age and you’ve got the seeds of a lo-fi revolt that will further break the barrier between artist and audience where we’ll all revert back to the good old days of tape-trading and photocopying fanzines. There’s no need to talk about the songs. There’s 16 of them, they last no longer than 2 minutes and it starts with “Teen Drama” and ends with “More Teen Drama”. In fact to my ears, it’s all teen drama. Rip It Off is the first CD for the anti-Ipod generation. “Please Play Loud” the sleeve instructs. No shit. There’s no other way around it.