Back in the early ’90s Radiohead proclaimed that Anyone Can Play Guitar, but should they ever wish to revisit their early days they’ll probably need to change the song’s title to Anyone Can Record An Album. The proliferation of new technology and DIY culture means that nowadays you’re quids in if your garage band has GarageBand. Ohio trio Times New Viking seem to be embracing the revolution, but at the same time rejecting digital trappings in favour of a more nakedly analogue approach.
Following earlier releases, the trio have made the adventurous move into a studio environment, although exactly how much time was spent there remains uncertain based on the recordings on Dancer Enquired, the trio’s fifth full-length. There’s a distinct effort in the production to make it seem like the whole thing was put together in someone’s basement, right down to the occasional dropout in sound reminiscent of a pound-shop C90. Lo-fi aesthetics certainly offer a band many benefits, but by deliberately shunning polish there’s always a danger that the baby gets flushed out with the bathwater. Dancer Enquired doesn’t see the infant completely disappear, but it does start to loom dangerously close to the plughole.
The album sees a more melodic approach than Times New Viking’s previous material, but there’s still a large amount of slacker thrashing to please devotees. Immediate comparisons include Pavement, Best Coast, Sonic Youth and a less scatological version of The Mouldy Peaches. These fourteen short tracks whizz past with plenty of energy and muddied charm, but there’s still a nagging feeling that it doesn’t work as an album and it feels more like eavesdropping in on a rehearsal or a dodgy bootleg collection. However, you’re not left in any doubt that this would be a band that you should certainly see live. This is a collection of songs to be enjoyed in a room full of sweaty strangers with a beer in your hand rather than at home with your headphones on.
This is fair enough- who says that bands need to rely on the LP format anymore in the age of the easily pirated mp3s? As a live calling card, this certainly does a much better job than a photocopied flier, but the songs do lapse into incomprehensibility due to the poor production. There are high points like Spektorish surf-punk of California Roll or the opening mission statement of It’s A Culture, but you do feel that a night on the tiles with the band is more preferable. It’s an enjoyable album, but hamstrung by its punk need to act like it’s not giving a fuck.
This album shows that Times New Viking seem more likely to be comfortable in front of a crowd rather than a mixing desk; it is worth an enquiry but with a little more application it could have been much better. But then again, who cares about albums anyway?