Music

Short and Sweet

Times New Viking's Sugar Teeth

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"Holy shit!" he barked, bouncing back toward the record player. "We're listening to that one again!" And if he hadn't, I would've reset the needle myself.

The song playing over and over was Times New Viking's "Teenage Lust!" and it rang from those ratty speakers as if specifically tailored to fit that exact moment. It was Friday night. We didn't have plans or girlfriends. We had beers, records, a sense of weary displacement, and the faint glow of opportunity that long summer nights tuck out in the distance. 

Through fields of major chord fuzz and a strawberry-simple keyboard riff, the chorus pumped blood. A boy and a girl singing in unison, "I don't want to die in the city alone." It held us. And if nothing else, at least we weren't alone in our loneliness. But Jesus, what candy! An absolute and total trash-thrash sugar rush—as if some magic, life-affirming, life-extending pixie grime rained on those shitty old cymbals, half-busted amps, and raspy old tape machines.

That was almost a year ago, and my how things have changed. Back then the trio, from Columbus, Ohio, were putting out records for Siltbreeze, a small Midwestern indie-obsessed with lo-fi squeal. Now they're a feather in Matador's cap, label mates of Cat Power and Stephen Malkmus. Last summer it was a DIY show here in Portland. Now they're trotting around Europe and headlining national tours. Live, back at the Eagles' Lodge last summer, it was clear the group was on to something. They tore through a hook-laden, 20-plus-minute set with the same ferocity and grit bursting forth that captured us in the first place. Before you knew what had happened, it was over. And you wanted more.

The jump to a bigger label, however, didn't alter Times New Viking's overdriven, needles-in-the-red recording aesthetic. Rip it Off, which came out in January, is 16 tracks of straightforward, bright, teeth-gritting, badly burned, truncated pop. And although none of the new songs quite match the pure squelching, come-together, deranged enthusiasm of "Lust!" they all piggyback on it. Taken together, Rip it Off is a tighter, better-written whole. And when brief, golden pop nuggets like "Drop-Out" whiz by, you'll be dancing back to the stereo to do it again.

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