The Ohio lo-lo-lo-fi trio follow up four thrilling albums with this resigned, disappointing offering
Is it possible to be shitgaze superstars? For a while in 2008 it looked like Times New Viking might be. It was April, and their first release on Matador, ‘Rip It Off’, was released in the UK. Up to this point, only diehard shitters (© me) could hand-on-heart lay claim to being “down”, but by the time follow-up ‘Born Again Revisited’ landed, they’d elbowed themselves out of the niche enough for non-shitters (again, my term) to be interested too. Shitgaze, of course, is a bit of a joke on itself – a more lo-fi and crappy version of shoegaze, which is, to be fair, itself a bit of a pisstake genre. The main difference between the two is ambition – where shoegaze’s was minimal, shitgaze’s is completely non-existent.
Steve Lamacq once distilled shoegaze brilliantly in these very pages when he likened Ride to “The House Of Love with chainsaws”. TNV sound more like Los Campesinos! with headaches. Maybe this is intentional. After all, the bands are mates, having co-headlined the 2008 Shred Yr Face tour. Perhaps that’s the riddle to this album unravelled. Perhaps it’s a biographical concept album based upon the career of that Cardiff eight – it certainly plays out in the same way, veering quickly from early promise into the steep ravine of really fucking annoying before plateauing somewhere around the ‘is anyone still listening?’ mark.
And like Los Campesinos!, that’s where it gets good again – at the point when no-one cares anymore. What a shame. So how have the Ohio three-piece achieved this magnificent feat? Certainly not through laziness – five albums in six years says they’re massive workaholics. Nor self-indulgence neither – only one track clocks in at over three minutes (‘Downtown Eastern Bloc’ at a whopping 3.38).
Nope, it’s more a sense of going through the motions. Where the first four records (and particularly the Matador releases) sounded like a band fighting for their lives – or at least pretty keen to make you listen – this is the sound of a band struggling to muster the energy to go on. And this is the exact emotion it evokes. Word of advice: don’t listen near sharp objects.
But, for those who persist, a light awaits. ‘Fuck Her Tears’, with its jolly nonsense couplet of “My heart it beats yes, to your cigarette” sounds as good as anything from ‘Rip It Off’, and it’s here that the hope arrives that this is just a blip, and that TNV’s next record will buzz with the exuberance of the last two. But maybe leave it a couple more years this time, eh? Time, as they say, is a healer.