Since Times New Viking released its fifth album, Dancer Equired, a couple months ago, there’s been virtually no review of the record that’s gone without mentioning that these torchbearers of Ohio lo-fi have spiffed up their sound a bit. Really just a matter of vacuuming up some of the fuzz and tidying the outer edges of their songs, this show at the Knitting Factory proved that the band’s live set wouldn’t suffer because of it.
Indeed, after a couple of tracks off the new album, “It’s a Culture” and “Don’t Go to Liverpool,” as well as what must have been a new song, “Love Your Daughters” was harried as ever, Beth Murphy’s keys whirring atop the white heat of Jared Phillips’ guitar gabble and Adam Elliott’s drum beating. TNV did come off tighter—songs fell in quick succession with less guitar-tuning and banter—and stronger, like the band on top of their game that they are. Sure, they shed any ricketiness from their live performances long ago, but there was an intangible at work this night that somehow made them seem more whole.
The poppier material from Dancer Equired, like “No Room to Live” and “Ways to Go,” lost something onstage, but was nonetheless a nice contrast to the tang of the rest of the set. The frenzied millennial angst of “Dance Walhalla” was stirring as it was pummeling, while “Devo & Wine” remains an eviscerating match of tension and release. “New Vertical Dwellings,” also from TNV’s latest, was one of the highlights, pop verses bubbling over guitar shavings.
Like in the past, Times New Viking is at their best when everything comes together in the perfect storm: post-modern witticisms, pop undercurrents and noisy asides. Such was the case on “No Time, No Hope” and “Teenage Lust,” which closed the set. The velocity of both songs was palpable, a force that could be felt as much as heard. The band returned for a short encore, first stumbling a bit as Phillips struggled to find the right tuning for “My Head,” before storming through Half Japanese’s “Thing With a Hook” to forcefully end the show. Again, though, the band seemed more self-possessed, knowing that there’s truly something exceptional at work. I hadn’t given the band’s progression much thought in the past, but I left looking forward to whatever comes next.