Times New Viking "Rip It Off" (Matador)
Rip It Off sounds like shit on an iPod, but I haven't decided whether it's a bad thing or not. The nerd/purist in me likes the idea of a band deliberately making an album that is almost corrosive when pumped through a set of ear buds. (I'm not anti-iPod, I'm just secretly anti-tech-hegemony.) But the time-strapped grownup in me is like, "argh, I wanna hear these admittedly kickass indie-rock songs while I walk around, but without feeling like my auditory canals have been blasted with itching powder." (Did I just type that?)
Maybe it's a moot argument, however; because even if Times New Viking is slyly anti-iPod, it's also perfectly old-school. The Columbus, Ohio, band fully embraces comparisons to Guided By Voices and Pavement and all those other '90s four-track heroes, so Rip It Off effectively qualifies as another on-the-mark Matador album from some kids who wouldn't know what to do with a big recording budget, anyway. (But I'll still ask them the anti-iPod question if I ever get the chance.) The band's songwriting -- which was occasionally spotty on its two Siltbreeze releases -- is now fully formed, even though the songs still generally clock-in at less than 2 minutes each: "DROP OUT" is the kind of anthem that Dr. Dog only seems to flirt with; "Relevant Now" combines the regal tone of a GBV showstopper with some rough innocence; and "Mean God" gives the Thermals a run for their money (even though the Thermals would do it more tightly and with more rhetorical precision). And that's just a somewhat-informal sampling of the 16 tracks.
The difference between TNV and its sonic forebears is plain, though. Where many of GBV's song-blasts inspired (and required) a certain amount of extrapolation from the listener -- and Pavement sounded cerebral from the get-go, despite its small investment in studio time -- TNV purposefully operates in miniature, both as a function of time and a function of sound. When a track like "Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo" vamps-out at 1:45, it's because there's nothing else to say -- not because the band decided to let an idea hang out to dry. And the fact that it sounds like shit might actually be a gesture of humility. They'll get over it sooner or later.