The Year. 5. Your face is on fire, your hair is a mess.

5. Times New Viking – Rip It Off
MatadorI just watched a documentary made by a very embittered middle-aged man about the obsession of record-collecting, the individuals who indulge in it, and what they sacrifice to do so. When offered “warmth” as an explanation as to why one would accumulate 20,000 LPs, one collector retold something that Geddy Lee (of the prog band Rush, who you never have to listen to) explained to him: vinyl isn’t really warmer. The light distortion is just creating that impression, and he only prefers it to CD because it is recreating a recording embedded in his mind.Those sound waves that Neil Young claims are missing – they’re just being filled up with the crackle of static and pick-up buzz. It’s a self-created myth of nostalgia for a youth on the bedroom floor, a fondness for the ritual maybe, but nothing more.

It’s an interesting thought. “Warm”. What does that even mean, in a musical context? How do you describe it? Is cold something like Merriweather Post Pavilion, where every note occupies its own space and the entire song is preserved in crystal? Is warm… Times New Viking?

It certainly fits with Geddy Lee’s theory. Live, Times New Viking are a reasonably polite, guitar-led indie pop band. It has elements of Flying Nun kiwi lo-fi, elements of surf rock, elements of 60s beat bands. Obvious elements of Yo La Tengo’s moments of smaller scope. But on record, it becomes something transcendent. Because Times New Viking create noise. They create those in-between waves, the static. They do it on purpose, too. This isn’t like the Royal Trux or something like that, people kicking their guitars and groaning. These are good, catchy songs. Recorded clean. And then forced, like the weight of the world turning coal into diamonds, into this muddle of colliding music, this mess.

When you can barely hear lyrics, the phrases you think you hear become so much more important. It’s the same thing that made Murmur by REM so great, and that gets people through the sonar-bleep Sigur Rós songs while they wait for the drama to build again. Drop Out equates getting up late and being a wreck so perfectly, even if it doesn’t mean to, that I can’t wake up at 5 ever again without hearing it. And My Head? I’m not sure what’s wrong with my head, but I know there’s something, and it was probably caused by the noise.

Songs like The End Of All Things are made into something unreal by the gain-knob abuse. It sounds like the song that plays out over the credits after the actual, factual apocalypse… “that’s all for everyone, that’s all for you”. And when the noise cuts out, the smoke clears and you can survey what is left of your house and your possessions (and your hearing, after half an hour of this on headphones)… there are about five seconds when you can see into the heart of all of this, and you know that it makes sense. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why, just like I got the why of it wrong when I did my initial review for Analogue. It just makes sense.


7 responses to “The Year. 5. Your face is on fire, your hair is a mess.

  1. These guys just pass me by. I don’t get what the fuss is at all. I remember talking to Darragh at that Shred Yr Face gig and he was on the verge of full on rant mode over how all the (presumably thousands upon thousands) of people desperate to see TNV had been ripped off du to their early stage time.

    All I could think was “why the fuck should I care about missing most of Times New Viking, here comes No Age.”

  2. Great piece of writing karl. Hey Ian, there were quite a few people who missed out on TNV at that gig.

    If I am a malnourished cow then TNV are a salt lick. In small doses they satisfy a musical craving in my that few other bands do.

  3. I love TNV and love this album. There’s a sense of urgency about their music, like they have to batter through as many songs as possible in a short space of time, that translates to a live setting perfectly.
    Last year, they were kind of lumped into the same ‘noise’ category as No Age but, to me, they are very different bands doing very different things in equally brilliant ways. Luckily, I did see them at the Shred Yr Face gig and thought they did a great, if brief, show. The melodies hidden beneath the scuzz is the key. Top album.

  4. You see, I originally thought that the melodies hidden under were the key too, but my opinion has sort of changed about that. I appreciate that they’re there, and that it wouldn’t be great music without them, but I sort of think that the noise IS the point. It’s the reason they’re different, and it’s the static that gets into your head.

  5. I think they would be perfectly happy that some see the scuzz-laden pop as their thing and some see their pop-laden scuzz instead.

  6. The eloquence of this almost makes me want to give TNV a re-listen. Then I remember the indignant disappointment dripping into me like Kylemore veggie soup with each passing second I spent with Rip It Off last time. I think there’s far more worthy noise rock out there, and TNV certainly haven’t made the most fun or sophisticated swashed-out album of the year. It strikes me that the three Vikings are complete chancers, and make both shallow pop and shallow noise music. And two shallows don’t make a deep end.

  7. Pingback: The Year. 15-11 « Those Geese Were Stupefied

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