Almost by accident, lo-fi became cool around the time when sophisticated production values started to serve as a suitable mask for substandard songwriting. In fact, deliberately poor production is a badge of honor proudly worn by most indie bands today, with terms like ‘honesty’ and ‘rebellion’ casually thrown about. But Times New Viking, the quaintly-named indie-pop/rock trio from Columbus, Ohio (fondly categorized by some as “shitgaze”), are definitely pushing their luck with their latest release Dancer Equired.
The fine line between lo-fi production and genuinely sloppy musicianship gets blurred ever so often during the 14 short songs comprising the album as the band fluctuates between a pleasant old-world charm, and contrived and shoddy attempts at identity-carving, without actually offering anything new, sometimes within the course of the same song. “Downtown Eastern Bloc”, one of the highlights, starts off with a stale and predictable indie-ish guitar riff that predictably overpowers the clangy and distorted drums before the dual vocal delivery takes the song towards a seemingly dead end. But a reminder of the band’s enigmatic skills at fusing the sublime with the ridiculous isn’t far away as a delightful chord progression in the middle section – which comes and goes seemingly at whim – renders a certain amount of class to the song.
The problem with Dancer Equired is that’s impossible to dislike the album. It’s far from perfect, and has enough glaring faults which a discerning listener could pick up in a heartbeat. But it’s a throwback to an era which is long gone, and it has a distinct feel-goodiness about it which makes it strangely comforting in a world of post-this and post-that experimentation. The stripped-down and minimalistic instrumentation, largely balanced by the catchy and sing-along male-female vocal delivery, makes for a pleasant (if not aesthetically stimulating) experience, lending an air of unassuming modesty and, dare I say it, integrity to the album. There’s even a touch of The Beatles somewhere in there, with “No Room to Live” latching on to a magnetic melody which is driven purposefully towards a poignant and mature conclusion.
The album picks up steam in the second half as the melodies become increasingly engaging, with “More Rumours” delving into interesting motifs with trademark gusto as the drums border on incoherence while the vocals and guitars blaze through the mix. “Don’t go to Liverpool”, which is probably equal parts cheesy 70s pop and cheesy 70s British punk, is probably the one true anthem on the album. Despite its frequent cringe worthy moments, the song has a triumphant quality which requires humming along at the least.
Dancer Equired may never be a classic for most listeners aside from dedicated patrons of this sound, but it’s easy-listening, and worthy of a few good listens, for the old-school novelty attached to it if nothing else.