Has there ever been such a polarising band? With their lo-fi, hi-noise aesthetic, this Columbus, Ohio three piece either come across as half-assed and half-baked or a riotous unbridled display of youth, ignorance and attitude. Their third album (first on Matador) Rip It Off was nigh-unlistenable, full of tape hiss, shrill melodies and distortion as the over-riding instrument, while proudly being recorded on cassette. Born Again Revisited shakes off a little of the intentional sabotage of its predecessor, but is no less a storm in a sheet metal teacup.
The whole of Born Again Revisited teeters on the brink of disintegration. There’s no excusing the sound quality, or absence thereof. It’s all well and good parading the fact you recorded the album on VHS, but if you want to sound like you stood in a room surrounded by one busted microphone and bashed out these 15 or so tracks in half an hour then you should’ve saved yourself the upgrade. It still sounds like junk. There’s no salvage operation here, and despite what the title may imply, the only thing being revisited is the dormant headache left over from reviewing Rip It Off last year.
When comparing Times New Viking to Guided by Voices, or whatever lo-fi, lo-rent, lo-aesthetic band you care to rub them up against, Times New Viking will raise your hand and see you every time, because at the heart of every lo-fi band is the desire to be heard no matter how primitive the method of recording. Even on the title track where under the veil of instruments running headlong into the red there’s a song straining to be heard that you wish you could. The same with “No Time, No Hope”. You want to beg them to set the levels and record the song again.
No matter where you stand and what method of playback, it’s barely listenable and barely music, only qualifying by falling under the definition of ‘organised sound‘. To call the final track “Take The Piss” is ironic, especially in light of the ‘”fuck you blogs” message lurking on the inside of the artwork. The only people getting fucked here are those who buy into the TNV blog hype and buy this record and the only people taking the piss are the band themselves. It says a lot when you can’t get through an entire album of minute and a half songs without saying “enough!” half-way through.
It’s all too much to put into perspective the week The Beatles back catalogue gets remastered and released to a new audience all over again. To think The Beatles were actually considered revolutionary and innovative at the time makes me wonder whether Times New Viking are as ahead of the pack as you’re led to believe or live in a perfect, albeit flawed, world of their own making. If this is the future of music then I’ll happily trade in my ears for a new pair of shoes. I think I need to walk this one off.