Friday, May 27, 2011


Getting to a fifth album requires a level of perseverance and intra-band harmony that’s pretty rare in the world of distorted & semi-experimental independent rock. TIMES NEW VIKING, who I first wrote about in 2005, were pretty unlikely candidates to still be around and putting out their best record six years later. “DANCER EQUIRED”, on Merge Records, a label I can’t say I’ve heard anything from in a good ten years despite what I know has been a long and very successful run, is at least as strong as the band’s 2007 “Presents The Paisley Reich”. Yet it’s definitely a different beast. In fact, unlike their previous four albums, it’s not really a beast at all.

Frankly I’m glad to see Times New Viking mellowing out their attack a little. “Dancer Equired”, while very raw and very much their own thing, owes a little to classic-period Guided By Voices and to 80s New Zealand pop as well. Songs are generally short, to the point, and end when the band wants them to, which is not necessarily when you expect. Their dual female/male vocals are higher in the mix this time, while still deliberately muddied by mixing and lack of fidelity. Keyboardist Beth Murphy’s vocals are even nice for the first time, and you might even be able to pick an English phrase or two out. It’s not so radical a departure as my description might suggest so far, and it’s still probably the wildest thing on the Merge roster. Yet it’s song-structured, and for 13 tracks, those songs are all consistently good to great. I can’t say that about any of their other ones, even my beloved “Paisley Reich”.

It’s probably because melody and structure is the end game, rather than dissonance and ripped-up texture. Maybe those great songs were there all along. I’m just glad they’ve decided to stick it out, and I’m happy to call them one of my “favorite bands” once again. Take a listen and see what you think.