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Times New Viking - Dancer Equired

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Artist: Times New Viking

Album: Dancer Equired

Label: Merge

Review date: May. 2, 2011

Like Trump saying "you’re welcome" for Obama’s birth certificate, I’m going to undeservedly say the same for Dancer Equired. Last time I checked in with Times New Viking was a year and a half ago, at which point I was pretty fed up with a shtick that I never really bought into in the first place. Too much clutter, not enough rocking. That’s not an issue anymore. The ratio is fixed, and any intimations of possible ineptitude is eradicated in a batch of songs that transition from anthem to chaos with ease.

This is one band that has probably never been accused of conventionalism, but it’s the embrace of conventional indie that holds the band’s best work together. Guided by Voices is the obvious touch point: Both are from Ohio, and both are at their best taking succinct ideas and making equally succinct and memorable songs.

There’s also a folksy-yet-urbane attitude that’s worked its way inland from San Francisco and Seattle. Before, gang vocals were mostly an assault. On “It’s a Culture,” Jared Phillips, Beth Murphy and Adam Elliott are working together in a pretty harmonious way. That said, they can still cross over to the contrarianism that made them so popular in the first place. Lyrically, it’s less of a lighter-lifter and more of a fist-raiser, talking about “a different kind of beauty / that ruins everything” before unbridling the lead guitar and some strange organ that really get into a tangle.

The tension that arises from ripping it apart and starting it all back up again is a pretty classical move that keeps TNV’s odd mess in a recognizable shape. There are fewer angles vying for equal attention, and the previous aversion for any organization has been relaxed. Now singular elements are used as a home base from which to make excursions, such as the bass line on “Ever Falling in Love.” Whether alone or crowded over by a noisy wall, it’s always there, and it provides a landmark to return from the rapid expansion and contraction of a rather beautiful round. Not only does Times New Viking sound good, they sound like they have a plan.

Peeling back the previous four albums’ layer of garbage also unearths fragments of popular music lodged throughout Dancer Equired. Some are tiny, like the echoes of “Under Pressure” on “Want to Exist” or the spoofing of The Zombies and The Doors on “No Room to Live” and “Somebody’s Slave,” respectively. The heritage is minor, the idiom still distinctively contemporary, but recognizable Easter eggs nonetheless. There are larger marks as well, though, which point toward the band’s recognition of the original lo-fi progenitors. “More Rumours” plays like a greatest hits of Pavement’s greatest hits, tuned down and riff-dependent as anything they’ve ever done. Then there’s “No Good,” the reliably tongue-in-cheek album closer that sounds like nothing they’ve done before, what could arguably be the 70th love song.

To return to the birther kerfuffle for a moment, there’s another potential parallel: the fact that I can begrudgingly admit that, despite my previous doubts, Times New Viking had it all along. “Try Harder” is the apotheosis of this revelation, a warped masterpiece that is singularly TNV, and brilliantly touches on the fact that all it took was for something to click.

By Evan Hanlon

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