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.