Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Shawn Biggs
There might not be anything more exhilarating that a fevered pitch, mixed in with some hell raising as its vinaigrette dressing, drizzled over the top of the heat. The fever can kind of come from whichever direction you need it to come from that day. It can be a kissing off to authority, a middle finger to snobbery, another bird to general cruelty or a rebelliousness that needs no origin or address. The commencement of that fevered pitch can start off as gently as it want as well, even imperceptibly, without the slightest idea that it's going to become something red and noxious, completely without reason. Or it can start just as a light, pop, and it's flaring, roaring out its piping hot demands to be paid attention to or else.
Times New Viking are purveyors of this kind of homemade, non-sanitized outburst of emotion, this quavering stun gunning of immediacy and off-the-handle temperament that is all for release and would never turn against its master and cause any behavior problems. The Columbus three-piece doesn't scare any bejeezus or stuffing out of anyone, it just rages its six feet and three heads off, doing it as hard and as loud as it can, making their lo-fi rumblings feel like monstrous hot geysers of vitriol and secretions. The songs on their latest album, Rip It Off, as well as all of their older output for that matter, are spectacular forms of testiness and what happens when a mind reels and reels and reels and then goes on to work its fourth job on the third shift. It's what happens when that crafty mind gets carried away - it just starts saying things and feeling the throes of anxiety, the rest of the world closing in on it with those walls with spikes in them and cobra snakes hissing from the corners and a chamber to the side that's just poised to spring open at any moment, unleashing a hideous foe. It's a very "Evil Dead/Army of Darkness" sort of paranoia that goes on to expand upon itself into the realms of wire-tapping and higher order conspiracy theory, the kind that will jumble you up into a dizzy blend of jitters. How appropriate is it when it can be explained away as cleaning as drummer and vocalist Adam Elliott does in his description of the song "The Apartment"? All he has to say in explaining his mounting paranoia, his escalating nuttiness is, "Luckily, I was just high."
It's a fitting moral to the story and every time I repeat it back, emphasizing the comma, the drawn out pause and sigh that you can plug into that line, I do so with a gray-haired thespian's cool voice, the kind that would introduce a Wide World of Disney Sunday night movie, like prefacing the hijinks of the twins in "The Parent Trap." Simply, letting the drugs get to you is probably something that has to happen in Columbus, Ohio, one of the least realized biggest cities in America, for things to get too bad. It's not the best place ever, but damn if there aren't thousands of worse places to call home. It's a tug and a pull that everyone who calls the Midwest home feels, to some degree. There's a different kind of angst here in the center of it all, one that just rolls along and makes the sounds of skateboard wheels on a sidewalk, every few seconds clacking hard against a crack, representing that spike in the fevered pitch, when you allow yourself to go ever so briefly hoarse blathering about the atrocities of living in an armpit or just somewhere that's seen as a far cry from glamorousness. Everyone wants to live in a place that's so alive it hurts, but everyone wants to die in a place that makes them feel like the Midwest or the ocean. When you've got to do both - mostly because you choose and also because you've got no choice - it's what Times New Viking gets at, with Jared Phillips, Beth Murphy and Elliott daisy-chaining their battered voices and beaten instruments together to form new ways to feel like you've lost it or you'll soon be losing it too.