No Age Everything In Between

[Sub Pop; 2010]

Styles: noise pop, punk pop
Others: Wavves, Times New Viking, Sebadoh, Hüsker Dü

As No Age’s Randy Randall stated in a 2008 interview, “Being in a band isn’t interesting, communication is.” Through their actions and their art, No Age have been communicating loud and clear values that are both positive and punk. As elders of L.A.’s vaunted DIY scene revolving around The Smell, the group has helped facilitate a fertile musical breeding ground that’s given us Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, and Pocahaunted while aiding the growth of many touring bands from outside of Los Angeles. They’ve also managed to generate debate about the nature of lo-fi recording qualities and its relation to identity: Is it an aesthetic choice or a necessity of circumstance? What are the socio-economical implications of well-off college kids from New Jersey invoking this aesthetic while they eat until they puke? As influential members of a scene, both physical and incorporeal, No Age has, directly or indirectly, provided us with many things, from simple aural pleasures to intellectual chewing gum.

Everything In Between, their latest album, is a sparkling effort from a band with the wind at their backs. Recorded over the span of five months in L.A. with all the comforts of home, it continues their willingness to experiment with an expanded sonic palette that was seen on last year’s Losing Feeling EP. Opener “Life Prowler” kick-starts the album with looped keyboard, shards of bright guitar feedback, and a driving kick drum, echoing the hopeful yet melancholy feel of tracks like “Loosen This Job” and “Things I Did When I Was Dead.” No Age have always had the ability to write songs that burrow into your brain for days at a time, but “Glitter,” the lead single here, is perhaps the strongest example to date. It’s a highly polished number with a mellow-gold, new wave feel, evoking elements of early New Order while staying comfortably in the No Age modus operandi. “Glitter” manages to be both accessible and difficult, at once familiar within the context of the band and in the continuum of great indie pop music throughout the years. It could very well be a “crossover” hit for the band, if such a thing even exists anymore.

But there is a number of other songs on Everything In Between that should also grow No Age’s already considerable fanbase. With tracks like “Common Heat,” “Skinned,” and “Valley Hump Crash,” the band has found a middle gear somewhere between its hard-charging punk songs and its reverb-drenched slow-burners. “Common Heat” is an especially populist treat, lamenting the struggles of the everyday grind and the conundrum of putting oneself out there, in both artistic and personal contexts. With the lines “I try to make myself seem vague/ Because the words get so engraved,” Dean Spunt laments the pitfalls of projecting oneself honestly into the world. While still somewhat soaked in reverb, “Common Heat” and other songs on this record point toward an increased amount of accessibility. In an era where Best Coast can go Top 40, why not No Age too?

Although some moments trend toward a slightly more palatable sound, Everything In Between pulls in the opposite direction too. The final third of the record slows the pace significantly and places more emphasis on fluffy clouds of samples and feedback. No Age have always employed instrumentals brimming with luminous distortion as palette cleansers, songs intended to provide a break from the cacophony. Here, tracks like “Positive Amputation” and “Dusted” fulfill that function, but sandwiched back-to-back at the tail end of the record, they’re also meant to stand on their own as more than just stop-gaps. And although not an instrumental, “Sorts” is a beautifully woozy song that relies on heavy sustaining feedback and a syncopated, slightly rumbling beat like hail on a tin roof.

As much as Everything In Between transcends what the band has released to date, nothing feels like a true departure, and everything seems like an improvement. The production is a bit cleaner in places, but that warm and familiar lo-fi haze still manages to kiss every track. Whether No Age are a 21st-century Hüsker Dü, the most awesome Punk-O-Rama band ever, or something else entirely doesn’t seem to matter to them. Indeed, “Shred And Transcend,” the title of the penultimate track on the record, would be a fitting mantra for the band. Play hard, play honest, and the world will come to you.

Links: No Age - Sub Pop

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