Noise rock has never been mainstream; instead, it has historically targeted a narrow base of dogmatic fans and been released via small boutique labels on home-dubbed cassettes. In recent years, however, a larger crowd has taken notice, and as goes the crowd, so go those who want to sell ‘em stuff. In 2004, for example, indie giant Sub Pop released Burned Mind, a harsh, uncompromising record by Michigan trio Wolf Eyes. Concurrently, such tastemakers as Pitchfork began to pay closer attention. It all seemed to signify a paradigm shift: Noise, it would appear, was the new big thing.
Enter Times New Viking, a scrappy, scuzzy trio from Columbus, Ohio, whose last two records, including the recently released Born Again Revisited, have come out on Matador Records. Once home to heavyweights like Pavement, the New York-based outfit is perhaps the most instantly recognizable indie label around. The signing of Times New Viking illuminated a newly blurred line between DIY culture and the music establishment. “With Matador, we get to do exactly the same thing we did on [former label] Siltbreeze, but there are more people working behind it,” explains drummer Adam Elliott. “Matador isn’t worried about us being a business investment. They just want us to record in our basement and do what we do.”
What the members of Times New Viking do, exactly, is churn out a wonderfully terse blend of noise and tune-driven rock. Their recordings, which the band indeed engineered itself on four-track and reel-to-reel (“Whatever’s around,” says Elliott), are loud and blown out. But try as they might, the band can’t hide their impeccable sense of melody. Their mix of pop songcraft and impenitent squall serves as a sonic parallel to the surge of popular interest in the sort of music once relegated mostly to house shows and tiny clubs. Despite the interest, though, no sea change appears imminent for the raucous underground. According to Elliott, “there are still a lot of kids all over the country that love to go get drunk in a basement.” The noise, it seems, will live on.