Times New Viking – Dancer Equired

written by: May 30, 2011
Times New Viking Dancer Equired Album Cover Release Date: April 26, 2011


It’s still early to call it, but 2011 looks like the year indie rock picks up a razor.

Times New Viking was always the brightest of the bands lumped (fairly or otherwise) into a harsh, semi-confrontational non-genre labeled for situational fidelity rather than songwriting. More willing to buckle down than Psychedelic Horseshit and less loopy than Eat Skull, Times New Viking evidently had songs lurking somewhere under the home tape grime.

And these Ohioans clean up nice. Sandwiched between Wavves’ more presentable King of the Beach and a Black Lips album helmed by Mark Ronson, Dancer Equired comes just as the iTunes generation is getting jobs that want you to look like Bryan Ferry. From the first strums of the jaunty three-chord opener “It’s A Culture,” it’s clear this isn’t the EQ unfriendly collection expected in a Times New Viking album. In “California Roll,” keyboardist Beth Murphy sings about “some things we just shouldn’t question.” It’s a good thing the trio didn’t include its music in that category—the band slid into a rut with 2008’s lackluster Rip It Off.

The rough edges have been sanded down—there’s nothing like that album’s muscle-twee distortion party “Off the Wall”—and singers Murphy and Adam Elliott no longer sound like they’re hollering with laryngitis through a fan. Only the closing track “No Good” features vocals that are anything but cleanly produced (and even that one rides a calm ukulele into the sun), but a full-on compromise it’s not. Most of Dancer Equired‘s songs start with a riff as simple as a barn door and twice as creaky. Murphy and Elliott don’t always hit the notes, and even when they do, it can sound like a toss-up (the low utterance of the word “guess” in “Don’t Go to Liverpool” could go either way).

“We made it through the winter” are the first words on Dancer Equired (notes intact) and this album’s sound feels as much like a renewal as springtime. Nodding to indie OGs who had their own renewal last year, “It’s a Culture” has a bold guitar line straight out of Superchunk’s playbook (the band made a similar move from Matador to Merge for this album). Music fans could previously be forgiven for taking this trio for amateurs, but only professionals can make a new start sound like a refreshing return to form.

Five albums in, Times New Viking isn’t aching to pay tribute to heroes, although the staircase jangle in “No Room to Live” suggests a more pensive take on Guided By Voices’ “Echoes Myron” (if the tour with those fellow swing staters didn’t have an influence, Robert Pollard’s decade and a half of prolific music probably did).

“Ever Falling in Love” is built on a dizzy-sick riff, with barely decipherable lyrics that have that cloudy, amorphous quality with which indie rock has fallen back in love. Any of Dancer Equired‘s 14 songs could be about friends, lovers or slack motherfuckers—but it doesn’t matter when the music is this woozily gorgeous. No problem if you don’t dig inscrutable lyrics, but be forewarned: When words do come into focus, they aren’t any more revealing, and stoned musings like “I’m awake and you are tired/We were smoke and we were fire” sound like demo placeholders waiting for real lyrics to arrive.

Make no mistake, lyrics were never this band’s bag, but there’s still a little bit of Kerouac in lines like “I want to know everything about you/Some people have better lives than this/Nothing seems real until you start talkin’.” Dancer Equired is short on profound lyrics, but Times New Viking isn’t concerned with being Ghandi; they just want to make sense out of the mundane and grab someone to share it with (“My heart it beats, yes/To your silhouette,” goes the chorus to the evocatively titled “Fuck Her Tears,” a statement about “being in love with novelties” built on three-chord bliss.

There are musical duds—the altogether unmemorable “Try Harder,” for one—but Times New Viking has a strangely likeable habit of jumping between listless exercises and vintage power crunch. The celebratory “Ways to Go” is a gem, with alternating power chords lurching alongside Murphy’s roller rink keyboards. The following track “New Vertical Dwelling” sounds inarticulate and rushed by comparison, hitting the ground running with a mess of spewed lyrics and hissy-fit cymbals but no strong melody to anchor the thing.

It goes to show when Times New Viking clean up the shit in their shitgaze, the results are still varied and unpredictable.

In that sense, the melodies on Dancer Equired aren’t far removed from the sweet subject of Forrest Gump’s oft-quoted simile: temporary but still tempting, and while you won’t like all of them, you won’t know until you bite right in.

Times New Viking – Dancer Equired Tracklist:

  1. “It’s a Culture”
  2. “Ever Falling in Love”
  3. “No Room to Live”
  4. “Try Harder”
  5. “California Roll”
  6. “Ways to Go”
  7. “New Vertical Dwellings”
  8. “Downtown Eastern Bloc”
  9. “More Rumours”
  10. “Don’t Go To Liverpool”
  11. “Fuck Her Tears”
  12. “Want to Exist”
  13. “Somebody’s Slave”
  14. “No Good”