In an industry so crazed on over-producing its acts with sonic Windolene it took Jay-Z, of all people, to declare the Death of Auto-tune, it’s quite endearing to see a scrappy, scratchy bunch like hotly-tipped Ohio noiseniks Times New Viking flourishing.
Apparently after record company concerns that their third record, 2008’s blistering Rip It Off, was a little, well, low-fi, the band promised a new album with 25% higher fidelity – then promptly delivered the mastered album on VHS cassette.
That record – Born Again Revisited – forms the backbone of tonight’s brief but raucous set at a quiet Cargo, although any pretensions of upping the sound quality are quickly forgotten as the three-piece – singing drummer Adam Elliott, guitarist Jared Phillips and singer/keyboardist Beth Murphy – tear through a clutch of short, sharp and surprisingly tuneful punk tracks. When the band manage to get up a head of steam, their often nigh-on indecipherable pop songs recall a slightly more vicious version of their plaid-shirted forbearers Pavement and Guided By Voices – and it’s no bad thing at all.
Like fellow ‘shitgaze’ pioneers No Age and Vivian Girls, the band display less of a desire to master their respective instruments and more to create a dizzying, scuzzy sonic bombast that tests the audience’s ears to their limits. However, Times New Viking can’t help but display an undoubted knack for a great pop hook, which seems more evident in the live arena than on their discordant records. Songs like Teen Drama and My Head (sample chorus: “I need more money cause I need more drugs” – for this writer’s money, one of the best pop songs of the last few years) seem more full of insouciant joie de vivre when chanted at full volume in a sweaty nightclub.
Sadly the songs from the new record, with the exception of the perky, keyboard led City On Drugs, don’t match up to the older tracks – particularly when they have riches like the brilliant bubblegum fuzz-pop of Call & Respond to fall back on. The exclusion of new single Move To California, probably the band’s most mature statement so far, is also a little surprising, and the rest of the new material can at times feel a little bludgeoning and tuneless. The band themselves approach the gig at full pelt, pausing only briefly to drink neat whisky and encourage an all-too willing group of punters to start an impromptu and extremely good-natured moshpit at the front of the stage.
Despite promising a “three set concert” early on in the evening (well – about a third of the way through, but hey, who’s counting), the group disappear a few songs into the second act and… well, don’t come back out. After a few moments of bemusement, the house lights come up and the three-quarters full venue empties with a few groans of disappointment. For a band with four albums and a good 60 tracks under their belts, a 40 minute set feels a little light on the ground.
Still, the band have made significant strides since we last caught them at this year’s Stag & Dagger festival, appearing more confident both with the audience and with their music. They may need to decide how far they want to push their style in future. They clearly have the songwriting ability to turn out a thrilling, populist record. Whether they will, or will even want to, remains to be seen.