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Times New Viking Brings the Noise

November 19th, 2009

Times New Viking – Mercury Lounge – November 18, 2009

(Photo: Listen Missy)

(Photo: Listen Missy)

Whatever you do, don’t call them lo-fi. Immediate? Yes. Recorded with whatever’s on hand as quickly as possible without concern for microphone placement or levels? Yes. But their albums aren’t a reaction against over-produced commercial pop, like the pinnacle of lo-fi pioneers Sebadoh or Guided by Voices in the late ’90s, as much as they are about their process: making the method of capturing the sound another instrument to be played. Instead of bringing this hazy distortion to their live show, Times New Viking plays at a volume that your ears will interpret as in the red. The trio’s particular brand of overblown hiss on their recordings is turned into punk energy live, with Adam Elliott on drums creating surprisingly melodic harmonies with Beth Murphy on keys. The frantic momentum never lasts longer than a minute or two before Elliott calls out the next song on the set list and asks the audience for another beer.

Their attempt at pure spontaneity, to capture a particular moment, is evident even in guitarist Jared Phillips’ approach to the instrument. What’s a left-handed player to do in a right-handed guitar world? Play it upside down. Adapt. The drum kit is stripped down to the bare essentials. Elliott plays hunched over, nearly hitting himself in the head, taking the direction of each melody on his shoulders. It was almost shocking to hear Rip It Off when it was released on Matador Records last year—the sleeve art reflecting the cut-up, barely passable aesthetic of the group’s sonic endgame, which happily continues on their latest, Born Again Revisited. It’s a mistake to get bogged down with sonic textures because at the core they are melodic, catchy songs that sound even better played with the unrestrained force Times New Viking inflicts on a live audience. —Jason Dean