If you listen to most of the music on popular radio (yes, the ancient technology of radio isn’t extinct just yet), you are likely to hear songs caked in reverb and manipulated beyond recognition, hiding the artist’s flaws behind glossy over-production. Times New Viking have always opted to go the opposite route, burying their catchy songs beneath a lo-fi production of filth that requires you to listen closely for the hook, drowning amidst the ear piercing squeals, crackles, and hisses. Even when they joined powerhouse indie label Matador, they still opted for the “mix-tape run-over by a car” sound.
Being a prominent leader of the lo-fi sound’s resurrection, it was surprising to read that their latest album “Born Again Revisited” would be a step toward a cleaner sound (to be exact, they claimed it was “25%” cleaner). And they did clean it up…kind of. The album is still noisy as hell, but on “Born Again Revisited” they rely more upon the growl created by their guitars than the buzz of a 1980’s tape recorder. Having seen the band live several times, “Born Again Revisited” is the closest they’ve come to capturing their live sound. Don’t get me wrong, the album is still not up to 21st century recording standards, but in this case, it’s a good thing. “Born Again Revisited” sounds a lot more accessible than past albums, yet it retains its lo-fi groove. Basically, it sounds more like a Guided by Voices album than anything they’ve attempted before.
Of course, running TMV through the rinse cycle has its draw backs. Now their flaws, which once were hidden, are up front and center. For starters, the vocals of Adam Elliott and Beth Murphy seem generic, lacking any distinct definition. While other lo-fi groups like Blank Dogs and Thee Oh Sees have found a unique vocal niche, TMV continue their ho-hum reliance on massive reverb. The album’s 15 song noise marathon also lacks the same amount of pop gems that were more evident on their past offerings, leading you to wish they’d go back and give classics like “Teenage Lust!” and “Mean God” a quick remastering tune-up.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some great songs on this album. “City On Drugs” sounds like a cleaned up classic that would just sound messy through the “Rip It Up” filter, and “These Days” shows a slower, softer side to the band. If they had trimmed the fat off the album, cutting out sludgy tunes like “I Smell Bubblegum”, “Half Day in Hell”, and “Hustler, Psycho, Son”, this could have been a short, sweet, treasure chest of memorable pop songs. “2/11 Don’t Forget” is the album’s highlight, sounding like a 1991 Superchunk concert bootleg. Hearing hints of Mack beneath the still evident hissing makes you wish the band would drop the lo-fi gimmick all together. If only they’d go for 50%, I’d be happy like a fool.