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January 30, 2008

TNV -- Rip It Off: No kidding, it's good . . .

Times New Viking, Rip It Off

Times New Viking's new record, Rip It Off, really sounds so good that it's a waste of time to write a review of it.  With that said (and given that I've already thrown in my two cents about the brilliant label on the a-side of the record), I'll ramble on about it and throw in a few thoughts on their record release show last Friday at the Wexner Center.  Since Greg Oden's out for the season, I need something to do while I'm watching the Cavs game tonight, so let's roll . . . .

My all time top-three favorite records are, in order:

  1. the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
  2. Guided by Voices, Alien Lanes
  3. Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

Is Rip It Off up there?  I dunno.  I made a rule up when I was 21 that I couldn't have a record in my all-time top ten unless I had listened to it for six years.  Why?  Top 10's (I actually haven't made one since I was 21, but the top three remain the same) should "stand the test of time," and when I was 21 I'd listened to each of Pet Sounds, Alien Lanes, and Crooked Rain for at least six years.

I think I really give you that list because I guess I dig Rip It Off so much for the same reasons that I dig those three records so much.  Not that TNV and Rip It Off sound anything like those records (there's just a faint glimmer of Brian Wilson -- if any -- in there, a bit of GBV, and a little more Pavement, albeit pre-Slanted Pavement more than CRCR).  I like those three records so much because I can just listen to them.  There's no thought involved.  I put needle to wax, sit down, and listen as something unnamable comes together, every time (even, now that I'm over the hill and close to 27, after at least 12 years of listening to each of those records).  There's those moments where everything seems to make sense: that first Hal Blaine drum strike in "Wouldn't It Be Nice," or the first chorus of "Watch Me Jumpstart" or the first 30 seconds or so of "Elevate Me Later."  Each record is its own world as well.  Pet Sounds = some celestial plane.  Alien Lanes = a far-out moon with the best radio station anywhere.  Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain = an endless youth spending an endless summer in a truly chill California.

So, if I'm peering six years into my crystal ball.  Assuming I'm making another top 10 list and I've still got the stupid six year rule, is Rip It Off up there?  It's got a shot.

The members of TNV have served their rock and roll apprenticeship.  They know their shit, and through two LP's, a couple of singles, and a few years' worth of shows, they've proved they can apply what they know.  If Rip It Off is its own world, I don't know what it is or where it's at yet.  I do know that it's a cohesive whole that works, something that few bands are able to pull off over the course of a 30-minute LP.  I also know it's one of maybe three or four new records from the past few years that I not only can put everything aside, sit down, and listen to, but also have to put everything aside and listen to whenever I put it on.  It demands your full attention.  Not in some authoritarian or belligerently overpowering sense, but it the way that it makes you pay close attention as that half hour zooms by.

"Teen Drama" is the way a record should open.  It's nothing less than an invocation, ala "Our Prayer" if Smile ever existed (it doesn't and won't).  I'm pretty sure I remember TNV opening with it when they played at the Psychedelic Horseshit record release show and me thinking that it didn't work so great.  I'm guessing that was a rare "off" moment for TNV, but either way I've seen the light now.  And the way it leads straight into the epic "(my head)" -- it kills.

The other thing is how the record goes in a whole bunch of different directions, and not haphazardly or in a "throw everything in" way.  The half-frantic, half-freakout "RIP Allegory" (which rules) gives way to the half-ballad "The Wait", which itself turns mid-song into a chorus that's catching the same wave as the afore-mentioned "Watch Me Jumpstart" but riding it a bit more subtly so as to make the ride last a little longer.

Then we really start kicking it.  "DROP - OUT" could be on Alien Lanes, though I think it shines a little more here anyway.  "Faces on Fire" is another one . . . maybe it was Adam spinning the Mice at Bobo St. Friday night, but every time I listen to it I feel more and more like it would work on Scooter.  Again, though, the song rightfully belongs on Rip It Off, and it works best where it's at.

Ok, really getting too review-y.  "Another Day" should be a Top-40 hit.  The riff in "The Apt." kicks my ass.  My one complaint at this point is I'd end the record with "Times New Viking vs. Yo La Tengo."  If you've got a memorable instrumental that fits perfectly with the record, let that finish it . . . but I guess you can blame Alien Lanes for making me think like that, and "Post Teen Drama" grows on me with each listen anyway.

Thoughts on fidelity: it seems like I've read a handful of reviews that go on and on about the lo-fi sound and wondering when TNV will take the leap of fidelity or even suggesting they should go mid- or hi-fi with their next record.  I think one review even spent 75% of the space talking solely about the recording fidelity, rather than talking about the songs themselves.  It's gotten to the point that I don't even know what lo-fi is anymore.  Don't you think TNV wanted the record to sound like it does?  And don't you think that it sounds pretty damned perfect the way it is?  (I do.)  No one can tell me with a straight face that Coney Island Baby, even the remixed/remastered version, sounds better than White Light/White Heat.  Same with Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Vampire on Titus.  And "Jaguar Ride" or "Agitated" wouldn't sound anywhere near as revelatory if they were recorded at Suma.  It's like the guy who wrote the review of the Psychedelic Horseshit record and said seriously that he'd made better quality recordings on his cassette 4-track in his living room . . . I'll just stop now and save the energy for my book on lo-fi rock.

Anyway, fast forward to Friday night at the Wex, where it was a celebration of the good going on in this city right now.  A nice sized crowd, a lot of kids, people dancing despite the lack of on-site alcohol (why didn't I remember that drinking three cans of Coke on a stomach full of dopplebock is a horrible idea?). 

Times New Viking @ The Wexner Center

TNV at the Wexner Center (Blurry photo courtesy of Luke)

Times New Viking at the Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio

People's heads and TNV (Hi-fi pic courtesy of me)

 

Yeah, it was a bit weird seeing all those bands in that kind of environment, but with Matt Horseshit on the soundboard (best all-star band-soundman combo since Dave Doughman did sound for GBV) it was like a home game for TNV, and they played a killer show.  The opening 1-2-3 combination, straight off the beginning of the LP, got things going right, and just when I'm starting to worry that they might think of doing a lame "play the whole record" set, they jump into the hits-new classic-hits groove.  The highlight for me?  Probably an "End of All Things" where, instead of the acoustic ending, the drums and keys dropped out and it was Jared continuing the electric jam accompanied by Beth and Adam, stalking their respective parts of the stage for the final lyric round.

Times New Viking goes on a brief tour in a couple of weeks.  If they're in your town, you should go, and in the meantime buy the record.

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January 28, 2008

Back in the day, before songs were numbered . . .

Prisonshake's The Nice Price EP

This one's been out for a while, but considering that I've been talking up the new Prisonshake records for a while, I might as well give you my thoughts on their new EP, The Nice Price.  As I noted before, it's available in two different formats -- a three-song bargain-priced 7", and a limited edition of 200, blue 7" that comes packaged with a CDR that includes the three songs plus two exclusive bonus tracks.  Being the Prisonshake fanboy that I am (yeah, I dropped $20 last year on a copy of the limited edition of 50, "poker chip sleeve" "Deanna" single), I opted for the fancy version.

And you know what?  It was worth it, 'cause Prisonshake's picking up where they "left off" about 12 years or so ago.  The Nice Price leads off with "The Cut-Out Bin", which makes the slick move of longing for the days when record companies put out way too many copies of records that maybe should have never seen the light of day, all while we're actually living in a time when more music is being produced than ever before.  In other words, it's looking nostalgically, in these modern times of too much music, at the long-ago days when too many records were made.  There's a lot of crap out there now (hell, I rereleased What's Wrong With Me last year), but Prisonshake's here to kick our asses out of the doldrums.

The conceit is one thing, but it only goes so far.  The song itself makes everything work.  Starting out with an almost exotic riff, "The Cut-Out Bin" slides into a more standard rock groove before sliding into classic Prisonshake anthem mode as Enkler laments that "no one gets a twilight to their career anymore / no one gets a chance to make mediocre record number four."  No sooner does Doug kick out the chorus -- "When they bring back the cut-out bin, save a spot for us right behind The Pretty Things" -- than the song breaks down into some biting lead work from Robert Griffin.  Next thing ya know, Enkler's shouting at you to "go call your mom and sell your guitar."  More maximum riffage, and then everything stops for a split second before allofasudden you're back into the chorus.  And then it's over -- only two chrouses and what seems like six or eight movements in three minutes.  It's perfect . . . with one deft swoop, the Shake saves us from certain doom.

(As an aside, my copy of the Offbeats' Relativity Records LP is a cutout.)

"Your Sad Friend (Pt. 2)" isn't a song -- more like an old fashioned Prisonshake "found interlude," except they've matured (which means we get a version of the classic "Come On Eileen" joke instead of a fart or the end of "AIDS Reducing Plan").  "Fake Your Own Death (Hey Asshole version)" is the proper B-side here (in another form it also leads off the upcoming LP).  This is a brooding, bluesy rocker, complete with keys, and -- gasp -- is that a wah-wah pedal?!?!  We get the stops and the starts as well, along with another good dose of guitar leads, before veering off into a quick experimental oblivion (in a good way).

Anyway, it should go without saying that the standard version of the 7" is worth the $1.50 just for "The Cut-Out Bin", but getting the alternate ending to "Fake" seals the deal.  Basically, you're a damned fool if you don't throw Scat the $4.25 for the single (shipping's an extra $2.75) right now.

For those of you wondering what you get with the deluxe version (besides getting the cd so that you can put the tunes on your iPod, and earning the right to annoy your friends by letting them know how cool you are because you've got #15 of 200), here's the scoop: "Cat O' 9 Codas" and "House Lights" are, as advertised, two instrumentals.  "Cat" is pretty much what its title claims: a good handful of instrumental interludes (or outros, maybe), albeit in a basic, sketch form.  I'm not sure if there's nine of them.  You can count if you want.  Most of "Cat"'s 5:15 are pretty much just interesting -- there's nothing too memorable or inspiring until we hit the final coda, which shows up around the 3:20 mark and really kicks it for the last 90 seconds.  "House Lights," on the other hand, is close to a revelation, the kind of laid-back, dueling guitar instrumental that definitely would work over the PA after the band is done and you're settling your tab at the bar before shuffling out of Bourbon St. (or, sigh, the Euclid Tavern).

As of January 14, Scat had "a bit under 100" copies left of the deluxe version of The Nice Price, so you probably should hop on board soon, if you're ever gonna do it.

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January 27, 2008

WWWM on Amazon

Lee Wadlinger's What's Wrong With Me album 

As part of the eighth anniversary celebration for the Lee Wadlinger What's Wrong With Me album, I've put it up on the Amazon MP3 store.  You can check it here.

Price is $0.89 per song, or $6.99 for the entire thing.  If you're scoring at home, that's $0.10 and $3.00 (respectively) cheaper than iTunes, and Amazon gives you the snazzy 256 kps bit rate.  I still think the difference between 128 kps and 256 kps is negligible for something recorded on a cassette 4-track machine, but either way now you only have to pay $0.89 to get all 37 seconds of "Heady Phone" (it's worth it).

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January 22, 2008

Rip (The Label) Off

I'm not one to start trying to put together coherent thoughts about a record after one listen -- that's why I'm not a music journalist (no cigar-puffing bigwig standing over my desk and telling me to write reviews for this stack of cd's NOW!), but I can't help but throw out my first bit of praise for the new Times New Viking record NOW!

So I skipped over to the record store this evening to get a copy of Rip It Off, and after a solid dinner of Mediterranean Chicken at good ol' Easy Street Cafe (whose deep menu is much appreciated -- that one's for you, Bone Fresh!), I made a beeline for the turntable so I could delve into some TNV wax.

And what's the first thing that grabs my attention?  Well, I'll be . . . if they haven't gone and out-foxed the foxiest foxes in the forest!  You got it -- they marked over the label from side one of Slanted and Enchanted to make the label for side one of Rip It Off.  I even pulled out my copy of Pavement's Matador debut for confirmation (though I was totally sure when the Version) part of Summer Babe (Winter Version) wasn't fully blotted out).  TNV already had my undying love and affection, but now it's even more . . . undying.

This is what all those kids who were listening to leaked MP3's last month are missing.  Nothing like that moment of recognition triggered by "WEA" being blacked out.  Untamed, untranslatable, the barbaric yawp of us record-buyers is something I won't stop sounding over the roofs of the world any time soon.

In other news, I think Used Kids still has a copy of the original LP "model" for the Watery Domestic EP artwork floating around in Dollarland somewhere.

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January 02, 2008

Cheers to '08

I decided not to do a "Best of 2007" list here on the NBR blog.  Not that I don't like "Best of" lists . . . it seems like I spent December perusing them, even finding a few records I missed out on during '07 that I'm gonna check out soon.  Really, I don't feel like I really listened to the breadth of records during '07 to make my "Best of" list worth much to basically anyone.  Tons of good stuff came out last year (obvious favorites include records by TNV, Psychedelic Horseshit, and Spoon, and the Pollard records have slowly been growing on me), but I guess my having not listened to the Panda Bear record yet ultimately disqualifies me from making any kind of list.

So, with that said, I give you my "Top 5 Reasons I'm Psyched for Early 2008".  After all, like Mark McGwire said, we're here to talk about the future, not the past.  Right?

  1. Times New Viking, Rip It Off (Matador, out Jan. 22): As Roger Brown would say, word is that the top record of the year is TNV's Matador debut.  And Roger Brown will be the first one to tell you: anonymous, possibly non-existent sources are usually right.
  2. Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City, out second half of '08-ish): Has it really been three years since the last Joos album?  Almost (it's been two and a half, but who's counting?).  I really dug the last S.J. record, Tanglewood Numbers, and after listening to D.C. Berman & Co. for 10 or so years, it was nice to see them when they made a stop here at Little Bros. (RIP) during the accompanying tour.  Berman's said LMLS has more "epic settings" and "foe-heroic" songs, which sounds good to me.  Now that the Silver Jews consists of a semi-stable, sorta-touring lineup around Berman, I've got a good feeling LM, LS will hit just as hard as Tanglewood Numbers (which has to have one of the all-time best 1-2-3 opening combinations in "Punks in the Beerlight", "Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed" and "K-Hole").
  3. Prisonshake, Dirty Moons (Scat, out Spring-ish): Yeah, I know I've already blabbed on and on about how awesome this and the new Times New Viking are going to be.  I'm serious, though, Prisonshake's still got it.  Their first proper lp in 15 years (!) is gonna rule.  Don't trust me?  Listen.
  4. Robert Pollard, Superman Was A Rocker (Happy Jack Rock Records, out Jan. 21): Were the recently released Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions as good as Alien Lanes or Bee Thousand?  No.  But really, what is?  Like I just said, though, Pollard's 2007 output (those two + Silverfish Trivia were the major releases, I guess) have been growing on me.  The "format" of this record (a 30-minute record, apparently produced by Pollard and featuring "classic era" and other assorted GBV alums) makes for a potentially interesting departure from the Tim Tobias-produced "Merge era" Pollard output.  Will Superman be a "return to form" for Pollard?  No.  But I'm guessing it will be good, and there's a decent chance it will be great.
  5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash (Matador, out March 18): I know -- this list is fairly narrow.  It's worth what you paid for it.  Anyway, like Pollard, Malkmus's "solo" output isn't on par with his former band's, but I'd be willing to be that anything he throws at us is going to be better than most anything else.  I dug the Malkmus solo set I saw in Chicago this past summer.  The new songs sounded good, and I'm interested in how they translate from the thrown-together acoustic setting to the Jicks setting.
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