Mark Bowen, co-founder of Wichita Recordings, on his fandom for Times New Viking…
This is a love letter.
In an age when music has no value, this is a declaration of love to a band that made me believe music can still mean everything to some people; that some people are still driven to be in a band for no other reason than to make music for its own reward.
Three oddballs from the middle of nowhere (well, Columbus Ohio) have somehow proved themselves to be sonic adventurers as important as the Velvets, Huskers and Hawtin before them whilst writing melodies of which Wilson, Webb and Wonder would be proud. This love letter hopes to persuade you to listen to this record with all that in mind.
The first time I heard Times New Viking was on a mixtape from (Welshies) Los Campesinos! Of course the production grabbed the ear but what got me was the tune! 'Imagine Dead John Lennon' was one of the best pop songs I'd heard in a long long time. Turns out all of Cardiff already knew this and when I finally got to see them in Austin, Texas the crowd was 50 percent Welsh. That gig and the many I have seen since then convinced me that I had found the 21st century's greatest band.
The new record Born Again Revisited came amidst talk of less of their legendary "pop songs from Ohio". More collages, more mood pieces, "more weirdness"... In places it has all of those things but it might also be their most cohesive full length yet. Recorded onto VHS tape as they further explored what can be achieved sonically, they enlisted the help of "soundman/good dude" Cooper Crain and set about making their fourth album in as many years (the second for Matador).
The album title they explain is "...our born again record. We wanted to get it out of the way before we were washed up. It is a message to our future selves." Quite what their future selves will think when listening to opener ‘Martin Luther King Day' is anyone's guess with its refrain "As the nights grow longer / Ideas will never stay" hinting at the band's creative restlessness which is further illustrated by only one song on the record passing the three minute mark.
There are classic TNV songs on there like ‘I Smell Bubblegum’ and ‘City On Drugs’; all shouted boy/girl vocals and chiming organ, clattering along in an echo of The Fall. There is also evidence of the moodier, even darker, atmospherics that the band had talked about during recording. Both ‘Little World' and ‘2/11 Don't Forget’ visit new ground with an odder, more down tempo feel, whereas gems like ‘No Time, No Hope’ and ‘High Holidays’ show the band's oft-proclaimed love of the sound of 80s Flying Nun records, particularly The Clean. In true Times New Viking style the catchy-beyond-catchy single ‘Move To California’ almost didn't make the record. You'll still be singing it even after final track ‘Take The Piss’ - a glorious addition to the canon of shouty girl punk songs - is over. Elsewhere ‘Something Moore’ sounds like it might have popped up on one of the brilliant ‘Homework’ collections of old DIY releases of which the band possess an encyclopedic knowledge.
Born Again Revisited leaves you with the same sense of awe you had upon hearing a new batch of Guided By Voices classics in the last century. Where do all these amazing melodies come from? This is a band that can write a pop song to rival any in music history and is usually two ideas ahead of us at any given time.
I have a track listing for a Times New Viking tribute album that will see the light one day. It will give their numerous musician fans a chance to pay homage and maybe even shed a different light on what is a catalogue of timeless, genius songs. Born Again Revisited puts that record back on the back burner for now because there's nothing better than 15 new "pop songs from Ohio" from the real thing.
Thank you Times New Viking for being the best band in the world and restoring my faith in music.
M. Bowen, 2009.