Contrary to popular belief, the members of Times New Viking are not art school dropouts, they’re art school graduates; and instead of following the path of stuffy galleries and regular unemployment, they chose to start a band. Times New Viking, consisting of Beth Murphy on keyboards/vocals, Adam Elliott on drums/vocals, and Jared Phillips on guitar, began inconspicuously in 2003, when it was particularly out of vogue to do it yourself. Those initial demos of messy, noise-crusted, indie rock recordings were merely practice tapes of late-night house parties. Those tapes were lovingly lo-fi, tapping into the gnarled aesthetics of Columbus’ old guard and reflecting the influence of legendary Ohio bands like Guided by Voices, the Breeders, and Pere Ubu. Frequently playing out, Times New Viking soon got too big for the living room, and eventually those tapes dropped into the hands of Philadelphia’s Tom Lax. The cacophony Lax found was enough to coax him out of retirement, lifting the mothballs from his dormant Siltbreeze imprint to release the band’s debut album, Dig Yourself, in 2005. By the time Present the Paisley Reich arrived in 2007, it was easy to see that the jitters and foibles of being a rookie band had been shed, and Times New Viking were increasingly confident in their songwriting. Phillips’ guitar-playing became an electrifying spectacle in the live setting; Murphy’s synth bleats and cooing innocence a magnet for collector scum; and Elliott’s lyrics, about love and war and romantic nihilism, stronger in their call to arms for a disaffected youth culture. But no matter how far their star rose—making the jump from Siltbreeze to indie-elite Matador Records in 2007—they still sounded like the best Rough Trade one-off you always wanted to keep to yourself.
Their Matador debut, Rip It Off, arrived in 2008. It wasn’t prophetic—quite the opposite, it was a slogan, an instruction as simple as play, record, fuck, and do drugs. There’s middle-class poverty out there now, prolonged adolescence in halfway homes. Punk is about a lot of things, but these days, kids without internet are punk. Times New Viking have always embraced this code. By avoiding the pratfalls of trends and the impersonality of technology, they’ve managed to hang on in a fickle reality. Though forever tethered to the renaissance of ’90s indie bands (Times New Viking shared the stage extensively with Pavement and GBV in 2010), there has never been a slacker indifference or aloof whimsy—it’s a sharp, determined grind.
Dancer Equired, the band’s first album for Merge, is a return to the hive, even if the record’s creation was outside of their usual boundaries. It should be known that for the first time, the trio escaped to a studio, namely Columbus Discount Recording and the famed Mus-i-col (closest thing to Muscle Shoals we got), during the Summer of Violence. With the help of Adam Smith and Dustin White, Times New Viking produced and recorded an album that sounds like a mellow night out. Though it abandons the pissy histrionics of the past, the record retains the loud, brash, mammoth guitars but also magnifies the bright, beautiful traits the band has nurtured since the beginning. Now they say “It’s a Culture,” and as the nuanced melodies of Dancer Equired appear directly on the surface (as opposed to, say, buried underneath), you begin to believe it. It would be remiss not to mention how Times New Viking have influenced a growing contingent of shit-pop purveyors in the years following their creation, but Dancer Equired is a new chapter, sure to attract an entirely new audience of intrigued listeners while keeping old fans perfectly satiated by not abandoning those early ideals. Rip it up and start again.
RIYL the Clean, the Fall (circa This Nation’s Saving Grace), Guided by Voices, the Shaggs, the Prats.
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