Saturday, January 09, 2010

I Smell Bubblegum

Times New Viking, Born
Again Revisited, Matador

Let's move to California. I hear
you'll have a better time.
-- Times New Viking,
"Move to California"

Hey, they provided that header. This Cleveland trio wraps their sweet, sticky hooks in
layers of loud, crunchy feedback. It's the same trick Pavement
pulled off on 1990's Perfect Sound Forever, after which they add-
ed clarity to their arsenal, and yet Times New Viking never
really evokes the Cali quintet. I've been listening for a few weeks
now, and I still can't figure out who they resemble most. That can
only be a good thing. No band exists in isolation from all others,
but it's that rare outfit who doesn't bring one prior act to mind.

I could try to compare Born
Again Revisited to their
other recordings, except this
is the only one with which I'm
familiar. Prior to 2009, I'd
never even heard of the
group. After one listen,
though, I found a place for
them on my top 10. As with
the Vivian Girls '08 debut,
my only complaint is that the
album is too short (30:54 minutes). In that sense, they're stealing a page from the Guided by Voices playbook, except their com-
positions are more tightly-constructed, at least in comparison
with '80s-era GBV when (fabulous) song fragments ruled.

Times New Viking also has the boy-girl vocal thing going on,
further distinguishing them from all of the above. So, their fourth
full-length is like bubblegum for a new millenium, but with more
gravitas than that description suggests. I'm not just referring to
the distortion, but to a subtle sense of melancholy that pervades
the proceedings. It comes out in the dark-tinged instrumentation
more than the spirited vocals. At times, they almost sound like
Joy Division at their poppiest—or New Order at their grittiest. The
intro to "No Time, No Hope," for instance, recalls "Love Will Tear
Us Part," but louder, faster, happier (if you can imagine that).

Born Again Revisited is
the product of three indivi-
duals: Beth Murphy (vocals,
keyboards, drums, guitar,
violin), Adam Elliot (vocals,
drums, keyboards), and Jar-
-ed Phillips (drums, bass).
I'm not sure where they hid
that violin, but the rickety, farfisa-sounding keys lend the album a dreamy circus vibe, like music half-heard while riding a rollercoaster or merry-go-round. Tim Sendra, in his review of Rip It Off, also cites this "blurry" ef-
fect, noting the "pushed-to-distortion vocals that sound painful when played loud, and like a far-off hum when played quietly."

At times while listening to these 15 tracks, I thought about 1947's
Tyrone Power noir Nightmare Alley, not because there's any-
thing especially terrifying about this disc, but because the stran-
ge, unsettling, carnival-set character study seems like some-
thing these characters would appreciate. Maybe you will, too.

Endnote: If Times New Viking's music doen't float your boat,
you've got to at least credit them with some creative song titles,
i.e. "Imagine Dead John Lennon," "Teenagelust!," "Allegory Gets
Me Hot," "Devo and Wine" (recall that they hail from Ohio), and
"Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo," a reference to their for-
mer tour mates. Images from the AMG and

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