As I was growing up, roller rinks represented ticking time bombs of messy emotional development. Birthday parties, graduation parties, post-soccer pizza parties - any reason to assemble a jumbled group of children would somehow coincide with a trip to a roller rink, and thus result in hormonally tormented proto-humans walking on eggshells in an effort to escape unscathed. Whoever made the decision to strap wheels onto the feet of those most fervently averse to embarrassment is either an evil genius or an oblivious monster.
If you were smart, you'd walk bowlegged over the carpeted outskirts of the rink and find solace in the modest arcade. It was in these dark confines, lit in a neon glow, where you could avoid getting drawn into anything resembling a couples' skate, or a round of hokey-pokey. Should you be strong-armed onto the rink, your safest bet would be to waddle carefully along the perimeter, holding on to the railing as more socially and physically adroit kids skate backwards past you, laughing and alive.
This is how everyone experienced roller rinks, right?
Well, maybe not in the case of Chico, CA, four-piece Viking Skate Country. I can't say this with 100% certainty, but it's my suspicion that Viking Skate Country adopted their name from a roller rink in nearby Redding, CA, whose website is quick to remind us that skating is a "healthy cure for boredom with lots of fun, music and physical activity for the young and young at heart." Judging from the music of Viking Skate Country (the band), I'd say they didn't approach the prospect of skating parties with the same lingering dread that I did. If anything, they'd probably relish the bruised asses that come with wiping out in front of a group of people.
Viking Skate Country specialize in noise-pop that balances chaos and order, each song blistering along a straight path that sometimes whips around on dizzying excursions. There's a tremendous sense of humor at work in their music, even if some of it is colored with shades of darkness. This juxtaposition is visualized in the video for "She's Alright," off of their debut album, Sent Here to Destroy You. The video features a woman putting her dead lover in a hole for them both to live, all the while Viking Skate Country are off to the side, drumming on dogs and generally f-ing around.
They have the vibe of a group of young punk dirtbags (in a good way), even as frontman Jason Cassidy has been in a ton of influential Chico punk bands, dating back to the late ‘80s. The rest of the band is made up of Robert Smith on drums, Mike Strishak on guitar, and Conrad Nystrom on bass. Overwhelmingly, the sound of Viking Skate Country is rooted in ‘90s power pop, pop-punk, and dissonance-happy groups like Sonic Youth. Unlike some alt-rock noise purveyors, there's not one ounce of self-seriousness to be found with this group of rabble-rousers. An exuberant, goofy sense of glee streaks like a lightning bolt through the core of their sound.
At their darkest, though, you get a song like "Thundercoat," which clocks in at eight and a half minutes of churning, desperate energy. Even if the song is nominally about one person begging another person to be their partner in crime, and stay out for just one more song - and, one assumes, another song, and then another - there's a low moan of loneliness at work. For Viking Skate Country, a dark night of the soul consists of the aching need to keep the party going for as long as possible. They're great at getting the party started, but might need help getting it to stop.
Viking State Country, w/Sun Abduction, Molten Salt, the Forgotten 45s, 10pm, Friday, Feb. 17, Cover TBA, Le Voyeur, 404 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.5710