A delightfully ramshackle, shambolic half-hour of lo-fi thrills.
Mischa Pearlman 2011-05-04
While you couldn’t exactly call this fifth album by Columbus, Ohio trio Times New Viking a reinvention or rebirth, there is a salient difference between this effort and its predecessors – mainly, on Dancer Equired, you can actually hear the songs. Which is to say that that the layer of squalling noise that was placed, like a filter on a lens, over the top of their songs, has been replaced. With this collection there is no noisy distress, no obstacle between the listener and the band.
Much else, however, remains the same. These 14 songs, like their predecessors, are crude and concise, the whole set whipping past in just over half-an-hour – but what a delightfully ramshackle, shambolic half-an-hour it is. You can, in fact, almost imagine the band just making these songs up as they were recording. Yet the irony is that it takes a certain amount of care, attention and precision to make lo-fi scuzz sound quite so appealing and accomplished – otherwise, it would just be unlistenable.
Interestingly, the lack of a noise barricade makes Times New Viking sound more vulnerable than they ever have before – especially on the jangly opener It’s a Culture and the wistful, melancholy No Room to Live. Not only that, but these songs feel closer to the emotions that inspired them and the people that created them – the jovial summer glory of California Roll, for example, is akin to opening a blind that’s been closed for years, letting the sunlight immerse a room previously shrouded in darkness. Elsewhere, the lazy, disaffected chug of Want to Exist helps highlight and accentuate the existential quandary addressed in the lyrics.
It’s not all perfect imperfection, however. The lethargic discord of More Rumours jars slightly, becoming too much of an irritant to truly enjoy, as does Don’t Go to Liverpool, the song that immediately follows it. But these slight letdowns are swiftly negated by the upbeat F*** Her Tears, and, on the other side of the coin, the stripped-down poignancy of finale No Good. Times New Viking are just as wilfully, wonderfully lo-fi as ever, but five albums in they’ve finally let the listener get that little bit closer to the heart of what they do.