Times New Viking is an Ohio rock trio that delivers raw rock ‘n’ roll. Jumping from different labels over the years including Matador and Merge, the band has released five proper albums in a little more than five years. On its last album, Dance Equired (Merge), Times New Viking dropped the lo-fi fuzz in favor of more melodious songs. These art-school grads from Columbus, Ohio, are still making music, and the band’s Elizabeth Murphy will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with her.
Murphy: It was the most nihilistic thing I had seen in recent memory. “The best band of the ’90s did not really exist until 2011.” The band was Yuck, ranked 31 in Spin magazine’s year-end list and this was the subhead of the “article” supporting this claim (quotes used here because the text, as the rest of the sub-head set forth, consisted only of “90 random musings on this historical anomaly”). It was very much a back-handed compliment to the band, never mind insulting to, I don’t know, the last developmental era in rock music period?! But back to the nihilism and the principle reason it struck me as such.
Early this past decade, the ’80s were at their retro peak. Those who had first became aware of themselves throughout the ’80s had grown into bankrolled adults that could realize art and commodities of their own, inspired by their first memories. Napoleon Dynamite tipped the scale in 2004. I was 22, in art school and in a band. The widespread acclaim this movie received, along with the roller-skating parties and the pastels and the claim that hair metal was “bad ass,” put a bad taste in my mouth. Noting the 20-year cycle, I tempted the thought of what I termed hyper-nostalgia: a pushy, precocious ushering in of a time not quite ripe, as influence, to which the ’90s was applicable at the time. In the spirit of immediate gratification and to be as conspicuous as possible, I applied my experiment in terms of fashion: flannel shirts, jean shorts with tights, big T-shirts, etc. This wasn’t enough. It wasn’t hyper enough; too ambiguous and blended in too easily with the landscape (my bandmate had never stopped wearing his Sleater-Kinney T-shirt, flannels, etc). But I couldn’t wrap my head around what aesthetic would chronologically be next. What was definable after the ’90s? What had been packaged in the first decade of the 2000s thus far? Having come up with nothing, I wrote it off as a charming enigma of being in the time in which you are trying to define and moved on … art school, he he he. Not so funny as it turns out. Coming off the other end in 2012, it is apparent that there is nothing definable about that first decade other than a simultaneous replay of every decade prior. Call it collateral damage from the internet; all was permissible, all was available, therefore nothing was possible.
It is well apparent the ’90s are fair game now. The arc of the Loveless reissue (2003) has hit the ground running. And it did happen a minute to soon. The time elapsing between the referent and the referenced is ever exponentially collapsing, hyper-nostalgia is real after all. I knew about Yuck before the Spin issue came out. My band toured with them spring 2010. I knew they sounded like ’90s Musak. They are nice guys. What I saw in that Spin headline, out loud, in broad daylight, and the tongue-in-cheek text that accompanied it (informed, clever, slightly pissed off, a subverted letter to the editor) this smacked of nihilism … of the surreal, no less.* I am not denying that 2012 apocalypse propaganda may be at work when I say this but we’re up. What follows if the creative formula that has been accepted as of late continues is a second pull through already fully pillaged history. Music since the ’90s has been but a cross-section of history with little creative capitol set aside for future generations to chew on—only unused bits, regurgitated remnants. What dreams may come of hot dogs? If art has always been inspired as a reaction against a previous time, how can a proper response be formed against a wash of pastiche?
Thankfully, instead of my head exploding, I can turn my tirade over to the timely and exhaustive research found in Simon Reynolds‘ Retromania. Reynolds covers this and other relevant problems such as: What’s up with iPods? How did everyone become erstaz epigones? What is the deal with hypnagogic pop? Without sounding like an indie Andy Rooney (R.I.P.), he nails it. Read this book, pass it on, buy it again for yourself, repeat.
*”Nihilistic Surrealism” being a fictional art movement in the Charles Willeford novel The Burnt Orange Heresy, which I just so happen to be currently reading.
Another photo after the jump.