Times New Viking

Dancer Equired

(Merge; 2011)

By Alan Baban | 9 May 2011

So this isn’t the squalling, brawling album we’ve come to expect from Ohio’s finest art-whatever trio. Times New Viking has, for the first time in their seven-year run of blowing amps, minds, and singing a bit out of tune, entered a real studio and cleaned up their sound considerably. As in, when guitarist Jared Phillips scribbles distortion all over these fourteen songs, you can actually really hear what he and everyone else is playing. It’s not just noise. And, well, it never was. But it’s only on the mid-tempo, and pointedly, almost shockingly well recorded Dancer Equired that the dynamic of this band really shines through. It’s sort of beautiful to just listen to stuff like “No Room to Live” with its smeared, shoegaze-y acoustics. Or when Beth Murphy and Adam Elliott coo over each other on “Ever Falling in Love,” the knitting-needle melodiousness of it all is stark, apparent. This is the first Times New Viking album you’re going to feel it’s safe to turn up.

But make no bones, Dancer Equired is still made of the stuff that shreds. The songs, for the most part, are still noisy, still made from the same splenetic fuck-furnace of tape hiss and tell-all sentiment that’s characterized everything since their epochal—really now, seek it out—debut on Siltbreeze, 2005’s Dig Yourself. That record sort of set the original template for this band with its angry and joyful sound that seemed to blow out of a little vent in a volcano, pressured beyond all fuck and seriously loud. It’s a classic of its genre, a melting pot of everything that was to come. And yeah, everything this band’s done since (on Matador) can be labeled a selective response to Dig Yourself’s many unique elements, whether that be the brutal EQ’ing that made barbed wire of Rip it Off’s (2008) infectious pop, or the gross antisocial lurch that took them to the gutter: Born Again Revisited’s (2009) harsh, no-wave bent. Now TNV have moved from Matador to Merge, a new start. And Dancer Equired is markedly different from what’s come before, the first TNV record to really make good on the spectacular promise of the debut as well as being a serious evolution in the band’s sound.

You can hear it in the pacing of the record—there are no real peaks, no teeth-grinding drone numbers to slow things down. Even the single “Fuck Her Tears,” which barrel-chests out of speakers all rough and tumble with a chase-its-own-tail riff and a snarling chorus, is relatively laid-back compared to their usual rockers, less confrontational and more anthem-like. It takes its time, warms up a bit before exploding like all fuck. Conversely, the slower numbers aren’t that slow. Songs like “Want to Exist” and “Somebody’s Slave” are not panting, heaving, drone-heavy things but built on a simple, driving back-beat that carries things forward. This entire album, in fact, is all sorts of confident movement. The band takes its sweet time to hit the killer chorus on “Downtown Eastern Bloc,” and ideas, in general, are allowed to stretch out and develop unlike on previous records, where the mad rush for the next spiky hook shaved edges off the band’s sound. Here you get all three dimensions—the brashness, the energy, and also the kick-ass musical development that means this band is playing its material better than ever before.

Dancer Equired is short at thirty minutes, but it does the job of re-leasing Times New Viking’s mad energy. It’s also easily the band’s best album in years, and even arguably—though Dig Yourself is still the shit—their best yet.

:: myspace.com/timesnewviking