Shortcut—Times New Viking’s Rip It Off

By Ethan Stanislawski

By the end of 2008, Times New Viking will either start a revolution or be laughed off as a novelty band. Which result we choose will predict a lot about our post-Bush American music scene.

TNV makes no secret of their desire to have a Sex Pistols–like effect on indie rock, from stage names like “harmish kilgour” and “brix e. smith” to naming their Matador debut Rip It Off. But they’re not posturing. With its lower-than-lo-fi production value, loud-as-all-hell abandon, and ability to let melodies squeak through the noise, Rip It Off practically sets off a Doomsday device on the current indie rock planet. And you know what? Indie rock is pretty ripe for an apocalypse.

Sincerity is hard to fathom these days, but Times New Viking makes sure their album’s a bullshit-free zone with song titles like “Relevant: Now,” “The Early ‘80s” and “End of All Things.” What those songs are actually about is hard to fathom, as Rip It Off’s lyrics are unintelligible to all but the most dedicated fans. But the dedication that pays off: even if you only catch a verse or two, you’ll realize these guys are for real.

A band like this, one that defiantly sounds straight out of 1983, has been at the tip of a lot of hipster-hatin’ tongues for years. All it took was for a label like Matador to sign a likeminded band that didn’t suck. To Matador’s credit, they didn’t have any reservations in signing a band hell-bent on slaying the hipster beast Matador helped create with Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. Lest anyone feel conflicted, grievances are settled in a fantastic distortion duel with labelmates Yo La Tengo.

No, this album is not that original, and it’s not all that intellectual either. But that didn’t stop the Ramones from “shifting yr paradigm,” and with any luck, it won’t stop TNV either. TNV may be a hard pill to swallow for Spoon and Sufjan lovers, but don’t be afraid to take the brown acid this time: Woodstock was a long time ago, and even SXSW is showing some gray. Rip it Off is a glaring opportunity to kill hipster detachment once and for all, and for the love of all things holy, take it.

—Ethan Stanislawski