For the past few years, bands like Cloud Nothings and Wavves (among a sea of others) have utilized low fidelity as a fashion accessory rather than a toolbox. The bands that have made lo-fi sound like a way of life do so because they treat that medium as an extension of the songs, instead of an obfuscating crutch to hide the shortcomings of a song’s composition. Though Brian Standeford, as leader of Seattle’s Idle Times, has crafted a few singles worthy of mention, it often felt like he’s from the former camp, buzzing up a cloud of static and feedback to mask what were essentially standard psych nuggets accented by a sick splatter of guitar flaying. It was rough and wicked, but non-essential. Enter Idle Times’ first full-length for Hozac, a record so blown-out that the lean towards crippled ghettoblaster recordings is nearly unforgivable. But even at the point when the epic “Hey Little Girl” (four minutes is epic for Standeford) becomes a mix muddy enough to run the song from its track and loses all semblance of tune and melody, the knob-tweaking reveals a spacious centerpiece to an otherwise satisfyingly ecstatic collection of songs. Instead of an experimental thud sandwiched between 30 minutes of relentlessly bouncy pop, “Hey Little Girl” shows Idle Times know their medium well, offering an alternate take on the lo-fi shredding that has become formula these days.
Fortunately, Standeford’s enthusiasm shines through on this intentionally bruised canvas. Like the output of Times New Viking, another trio who treat this aesthetic as an aesthetic, “There You Go” is as much about in-the-red extremes as it is implanting catchy hooks and a shouted chorus; it’s as if you’re in the same room, blinded by the skronk, but smiling all the same. At times, how post-indie Idle Times sound seems a bit blatant. However, when they carve out Slay Tracks-era Pavement scrawls over “Every Time I Talk” or rattle around in bright, swift chords like Superchunk on “Working on Something,” their nostalgia is completely welcome, especially considering Standeford’s constant soloing resonates like none of the above. The trick is that Idle Times specialize in dank, fuzzy ’60s riffs akin to the sonic palette of Sic Alps. The album peaks on songs like “Prison Mind” and the deceptively trippy closer, “When I Walk,” where Standeford mimics an imagined Kinks laying waste to a four-track or Hendrix making a Detroit dive-bar appearance. That balance between old and new is what makes Idle Times’ debut one of those records that never becomes tiresome—not exactly timeless, as their resources are obvious, but colorfully infectious nonetheless.
Kevin J. Elliott