“Pop for perverts” is how Robert Christgau once described the lo-fi arena-rock of Guided By Voices, a band the venerated rock critic chided for being “too prudish and/or alienated to take their pleasure without a touch of pain.” GBV has nothing on fellow Ohio outfit Times New Viking when it comes to crafting hooky songs that scrape eardrums raw; this is, after all, the band that supposedly turned in the master recording for 2009’s Born Again Revisited on a VHS tape. But on Dancer Equired, Times New Viking generously forsakes pain when doling out surprisingly sumptuous, big-sounding pop-rock tunes like “Don’t Go To Liverpool” and “Downtown Eastern Bloc.” It’s a record destined to alienate lo-fi purists—a constituency Times New Viking has been committed to pleasing to an almost-comical degree—but it will engage a much larger audience that was turned off by the gratingly tinny sound of the band’s previous releases.
While Dancer Equired boasts improved fidelity, Times New Viking makes sure not to shape up too much; the songs casually meander toward tunefulness, with wiry guitar riffs stumbling over fumbling drums and flat-footed boy-girl harmonies. But no matter how aimless it might seem at times, Dancer Equired almost always ends up in a pleasingly poppy zone, particularly on the jangly charmer “No Room To Live” and “Ever Falling In Love,” which is as pretty as the title promises. “Somebody’s Slave” even flirts with funk—a stiff-legged, shoegazing sort of funk, but funk nonetheless. This middle ground between pop and perversion is where Dancer Equired thrives.