My first interaction with The Tim Version was in my local record shop, where I bought a copy of Decline of the Southern Gentleman based on the No Idea Records stamp alone. It didn’t blow my mind, but I appreciated the good tunes that it had and moved on. Despite my tepid reaction, it still holds a good place in my heart. There’s nothing offensive about The Tim Version, so they lend themselves well to putting something on just to put something on. They never do anything outright bad, just kind of forgettable, but when you remember it you give it a spin and smile. Ordinary Life is their latest album and it finds their sound working within the same boundaries (gruff pop punk with a dash of country influence here and there), and with the same faults.
The album opens with “For the Birds,” a speedy number that is as catchy as it is fast. It satisfies instantaneously. I played it from my feeble desktop speakers for a friend and it quickly silenced all conversation as he locked eyes with my glowing screen and said: “Who the fuck is this? This is awesome.” That attention grabbing balls-hammered-to-the-wall aesthetic is one of The Tim Version’s strong suits– when they throw down they throw down hard.
It stands to mention though, that the vast majority of Ordinary Life isn’t written for the pit. Many of the songs hang in the mid-tempo range, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but coupled with the frequency of these similarly tempoed track, it can feel a little monotonous. “Hello, Waterface” keeps the momentum going hard as the second track, but after that Ordinary Life slows to a halting stop, not really picking up until “Plague Dogs.”
Now, that’s not to say these slower tracks are bad, because in fact a lot of them are downright great. “A Dream About Dean’s Dream” has some great close-your-eyes-while-you-rock-out fretwork and the general feeling of a big, sweaty singalong. And “Funny Movies” might be one of the best songs on Ordinary Life, featuring punk rock with the spirit of gospel music and instrumentation that goes beyond the usual. These small tweaks to the formula show a willingness to experiment that go along way towards The Tim Version avoiding being punk rock static.
Other times though, this willingness to experiment takes disastrous turns. “The Future of Humanity is Dogs” is an awesome song title, but it drags through its completely unnecessary six and a half minutes. Yeah, its soulful and it has a good melody, and in the right hands it could have been the kind of bone-chilling religious experience that someone could claim to be saved by years down the road. But here, it only augments the album’s biggest problem: momentum.
“Red Wine Party” is a high point of the second half of Ordinary Life. It brings their country influences to the forefront and paints a poignant picture with its neat rhymes, imagery and guitar that seamlessly merges country and punk rock. “Die In Yer Sleep” is another country-fied track, but is another one marred by a six-plus minute runtime it can’t quite sustain. “Fish Oar Die” picks it back up with some scream-a-long punk rock that ends the album in the best possible way. The refrain “I’d rather go fishing,” is a great summation of The Tim Version’s aesthetic and voice and allows them to go out as strong as they came in.
Ordinary Life has its problems– it sags hard in the middle, despite its great songwriting, and feels a little too homogenous at times. At forty-four minutes, this is a long punk album, and when the needle lifted, I never quite felt it earned all of those minutes. Which is a shame, because there are a handful of great songs here– some of them could guiltlessly be called anthems– but it doesn’t leave you thinking about the high points it has interspersed throughout it, it leaves you thinking about all the monotony between the high points. The Tim Version have always been a good band, but never have been a great ‘album band.’ Their releases all have that same feeling of competent, if un-nuanced, fun that leaves me a bit disappointed that they didn’t reach for more ambitious horizons. Its not so much a bad thing, so much as a shame, because after listening to the best parts of Ordinary Life, you know there’s gold in them there hills– you just wish they’d mine it better.
Either way, I’m sure Ordinary Life will find its audience. They might not have it constant rotation, but one day they’ll pick it up and spin it and smile. And that’ll be that.