There are certain tribes who, to the enduring surprise of linguists, possess no words for left or right, up and down and must instead express what we assume to be fundamental concepts of direction in relation to the sun or the point of origin of their journey. Like the magnetic sense of migratory birds these people are blessed with an uncannily accurate sense of their location in both time and space, a sense shared by a certain breed of hipster that never arrives too early (or to late) for gigs at West Germany despite the fact that here in the Kreuzberg time zone 9pm usually means 10.30pm but occasionally, as in the case of the unsupported Times New Viking, turns out to be some way north of midnight.
With a spare couple of hours to count the stars and enjoy the Indian summer on the balcony, the background chatter, informed by the annual plague of art fairs, turns to ‘some guy who glues together broken records’ and a pithy analysis of experimental music which is, apparently, “so abstract that in the end it’s, like, not abstract at all.”
Apparently named after a non-existent typeface, exactly where Times New Viking are situated in relation to abstraction or representation is a philosophical bridge to far. After intense consultations over the setlist Beth Murphy, stationed behind her synth announced “Time to let this bitch off the chain.” The audience were nonplussed when asked what the German translation might be.
The drummer, Adam Elliott, grinning from ear to ear, then formally introduced the band, “We are Times New Viking from the mighty city of Columbus Ohio, and our president smokes cigarettes.” What followed more or less without pause was a set of short sharp garage pop driven by melody as much as distort and true to the scratchy lo-fi aesthetic that defined their releases including the latest, Born Again Revisited.
The Vikings have been accused of hiding their pop light under a bushel of hiss and tape wobble, the ubiquity of pro-tools making four track ‘authenticity’ a more expensive and complicated option than deluxe 24bit surround sound. That they are signed to Matador further confirms that their sonic aesthetic is one of choice rather than necessity.
What becomes clear from their set, with songs dedicated to Henry Rollins and Greg Ginn and pleas for weed, is their have-a-go hardcore roots. Each bridgeless song coming in at around 2 minutes as a bottle of Jim Beam is passed between the band and ultimately offered to the audience. When Jared Phillips breaks a string the drummer tells the audience that the incident concludes their first set and, like jam-wank band Fish, they now play two sets. The second instalment bore close resemblance to the first and whilst it was hard to dislike their energy, charm and enthusiasm after a while it all began to sound a little the same. This was perhaps due to Elliott’s unlikely and effusive confession that the audience had no idea what a special thing it was for a boy from Ohio to be playing a city like Berlin, betraying an excitement most buzz-bands would studiously conceal.
Smart enough ultimately not to outstay their (a-typically warm) welcome, they concluded with an encore comprising a repeated chant of “That’s all you get, that’s all you deserve” as Elliott conducted proceedings stood on his drumstool, whilst Murphy banged her head repeatedly against the wall.