Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Times New Viking - Rip It Off
Ears: In much pain after listening to Rip It Off and its subversive production.
Head: Aching after trying to read along with their lyrics, printed in a size 4 font, squeezed on the inside front cardboard flap of the product.
Heart: Breaking as I prepare to diss my first band and reveal myself to be a jerk. TNV does not deserve to be dissed. Any normal person who heard two seconds of Rip it Off would immediately say, "Turn that racket off!" They are defiantly unlistenable music. No one is going to give them a snowball's chance in Hell unless they've heard a lot of good things about them. Indeed, I wanted to get their last album when it came out in 2007, and I saw a video of them playing a song live and it looked like a really exciting concert experience and I thought they might be the first great "undiscovered"-"discovered" (bands written up in blogs all over the place, but still not in the perceptory field of any of my friends) band to save rock and roll after the White Stripes, YYY, !!!, Liars, Strokes meltdown in 2002. This is what I thought before hearing any of their recorded material. TNV do not deserve to be dissed.
But it is my duty as a "mark" to warn others that Pitchfork's glowing patronization of this lo-fi wonder is potentially linked into some kind of weird partnership with Matador, whereby they review records that aren't going to sell well really well, and review records that they know will sell well poorly, to create a weird kind of supply and demand economics driven system towards the criticism, proliferation and capitalization on indie rock (Krist Novoselic's sarcastic comment, "Indie rock is a viable commodity" from the Nirvana! Live Tonight! Sold Out! video doesn't seem like such a joke when Pitchfork has turned into the behemoth it has, Lollapalooza has re-established itself, Coachella has raised its price from $140 for 2 days to $270 for 3 days, new festivals in exotic locations throughout the globe get added every summer, and Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, and Mission of Burma have quietly managed the respect that comes with being a 2 decades plus strong indie rock careerist while only now beginning to gain the respect of the mainstream) taking place since 2001 and getting stronger and more expensive every day.
TNV are always described as "lo-fi." There is nothing crisp or clean about them. If you were to collect all of the most poorly recorded GBV songs there were, the audio quality would match that of Rip It Off. It is the lowest of the lo-fi. It is worth noting that this band is on Matador. If Pavement is on Matador, they end up working with Nigel Godrich. Maybe TNV doesn't get the same size budget to work with, but they are still on Matador. If they wanted to sound better, they could. Is it time yet to take direct issue with the Pitchfork review of this album, which gives it a robust 8.4? The reviewer goes as far to admit that this band will not sell Volkswagens, but they also refer to the "layer of fuzz" that swathes the album in over-trebled obscurity as a "security blanket." Their security being that they will not win many fans, but those that take time to understand TNV will be richly rewarded, because they are one of the last "exuberant" bands left that don't care about appealing to the masses. This makes very little sense to me.
OK, I will admit I put "Mean God" on my running playlist for today after work, and "Drop-Out" is O.K. and "Off the Wall" sounds like an actual song. But the only well-titled song ("Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo") is boring. None of the songs really separate themselves from the bunch. I feel like I could make this album. The singer sounds like a tiny bit like Bob Pollard or really any other regular guy screaming on a lo-fi recording. The other singer sounds like she should be on K records or in a Riot Grrl band. Most of the songs sound the same. They are mostly about a minute or two. They have the same dynamics.
I will say that their lyrics appear interesting. They are extremely direct (I think "Relevant: Now" is about how people are supposed to be taking them seriously now) and the lyrics often work well in the context of their songs and their style. However, they are printed very tiny and it hurts to try to follow along with them as you listen, just one more way that TNV are difficult and don't really care about being nice to their fans.
The only way they are generous with their fans is with how prolific they have been in a relatively short time. One can hope that they will actually put out their own Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Do the Collapse in another four or five years. However, if they remain stubborn and anti-pleasure, they will not develop anything more than a small cult following. I would like to see them live once so I could comment on their live sound, their energy, what the show was like, but I cannot recommend this record. To do so would be unfair to anyone reading this review, because later they could confront me and say, "Why would you like that?"
I don't like that. I can barely see why Pitchfork does. Maybe they are a decent band, but the album is crazy and for no one. Maybe they saved a lot of money recording that way. They sure are lucky to be on Matador.