FOREWORD: Undoubtedly one of America’s best young art punk outfits, No Age have continued to advance and expand their sound. 2010′s Everything In Between, influenced by sensational unheralded ’90s act Disco Inferno, shuns conventionality and evades most preconceptions. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly during 2008.
Living in a little rent-controlled Hollywood backhouse for the last nine years, No Age guitarist Randy Randall found interest in radical psychedelia and its related Los Angeles-based Paisley Underground thanks to his cool older brother. Modish ‘80s indie bands such as the Three O’Clock and Redd Kross informed the experimental 27-year-old musician as an impressionable teen. Around the same time, he discovered noise-rock icons, Sonic Youth, a more direct influence on his imminent musical ruminations.
After lauding luminary Sonic Youth axe man, Thurston Moore, Randall reflects, “I was looking for the most out-there guitar weirdo music by the Residents, Marc Ribot, and especially Captain Beefheart. I love Shiny Beast and Doc At The Radar Station. I know Trout Mask Replica gets its accolades but I feel Beefheart’s best band did those later recordings. They really locked into the groove.”
Riding atop a healthy local noise scene that includes mainstays Lavender Diamond, Abe Vigoda, and others, No Age cut their teeth performing at cavernous downtown L.A. warehouse club, The Smell. Soon, the dazzling duo of Randall (a part-time booking agent for The Smell) and percussionist-lyricist Dean Spunt decided to lay down some tracks for a few forthcoming extended play singles.
“Dean listened to hardcore, which I knew nothing about originally. He was into Minor Threat and obscure ‘80s punk,” Randall asserts. “I was more into feedback-soaked music. Somewhere in the middle we met.”
Initially getting together in formative trio, the Wives, the propitious pair released their first five No Age EP’s separately at the same time, a fortuitous ploy psychedelic San Francisco freaks, Moby Grape, tried unsuccessfully with various 45’s during ’67s Summer Of Love. Never believing they’d attain recognition beyond the West Coast, the curious twosome obligingly received critical national underground attention, hitting the road for an awesome tour, garnering a serious fan contingent, and ultimately assembling the early EP’s on triumphant ’07 entree, Weirdo Rippers.
“It was just us writing songs and then culling them for a collage-y full length,” he claims. “With Nouns (Sup Pop), we wanted to make a proper album that flowed. We wanted to see what we could do within our restrictions. It’s easier to work with two people. It cuts down band politics. We use samplers to make the most out of it. But we’re open to collaborations in the future.”
A gallery-styled prism-hued booklet accompanies Nouns ample package, serving as resplendent imagery and to break up the album’s literal thematic flow concerning people, places, and things playing a vital role in the duo’s lives.
Be advised. No Age may cause whiplash with their calamitous roughhewn commotion, at times limiting access to seasoned noise addicts and avant-garde aficionados only. Offering no easy way out, Noun’s clangorous subterranean opener, “Miner,” places a distant stentorian guitar inside a cellar-bound tin-canned drum scrum. Ensuing rampaged shakedown, “Eraser,” capitulates to a seismic garbled guitar quake halfway through. In fact, the auspices of this dirtily indeterminate 6-string scree had been sitting around since Weirdo Rippers dropped, waiting to be completed.
“We didn’t know how to finish “Eraser.” We played around with it long enough and it was made into something.” However, Randall insists, “Sometimes songs write themselves from beginning to end. Other times, you just have parts to try and fit in or ditch instead.”
Though savaged by thunderous discord, the salutary “Teen Creeps,” is less dirty and more accessible than those first two cuts. Awash in muffled fuzz tones, its simple beat and blistering guitar-bass provide instant satisfaction.
Equally conventional (by No Age standards), “Ripped Knees” shows off a familiar Strokes-strummed scamper Spunt constantly mocks Randall for unconsciously imitating.
“Dean’s been busting my balls for writing some stuff that sounds like the Strokes. I didn’t even know who they were. I’m probably ripping off whoever they’re stealing from,” Randall quips. “I’m a huge Velvet Underground fan, so maybe that’s where it comes from.”
Following the buzz-y Industrial shrill of deviant instrumental, “Keechie,” the macabre “Sleeper Hold” unloads prime Husker Du clamor, reaching stratospheric heights as its soaring feedback-flailed bass drum-rumbled scuzz-rock fracas builds.
“Husker Du are one of Dean’s favorite bands. He met Bob Mould in Spain and flipped his wig,” Randall says, utilizing one of the legendary Minneapolis band’s album titles to explain Spunt’s excitement meeting an idol.
Ominous mantra, “Things I Did When I Was Dead,” seems to end up on a hospital bed with a doubtful prognosis. A tape-looped defibulator spurts electro-beeps into flat-lined vocal droning as crickets eerily chirp near an imaginative graveyard. Correspondingly, distortion drenched stampede, “Errand Boy,” piles on obtuse lyrical gloom. But maniacally fast-paced foray, “Brain Burner,” a static-enhanced My Bloody Valentine knockoff, contains a jaunty melodic hook exceeding anything posed on the jarringly blared Weirdo Rippers.
The most straightforward number, “Here Should Be My Home,” doubles the sonorous voices, veers into traffic, then barrels down a bumpy road.
Retaining a restlessly subversive attitude, the uncompromising No Age have no trouble piercing rock’s wildly spectral boundaries. Looking backwards for a moment, their uninhibited approach completely emboldened the white noise disfigurements consuming Weirdo Rippers, hearkening back to the blaring cacophonous shimmer Jesus & Mary Chain perfected in the mid-eighties. Dissonant commencing overture, “Every Artist Needs A Tragedy,” plies shards of mangled metallic scraps to a tortured artist lampoon. Pounding drums and slashing cymbals drill across “Boy Void’s” trashy lo-fi tempest, going from shallowly muted to dynamically up-front. The same obtuse contrasts distinguish swinging rock and roll scrambler, “My Life’s Alright Without You,” as it vacillates between muzzled faraway dungeon blear to blazingly in-your-face intimidation. Coming out of three minutes of lazily meandering free form sludge, “Dead Plane” unexpectedly drifts into a blurry Ramones-styled adolescent frenzy before taking flight like a big ol’ jet.
But while Weirdo Rippers relied primarily on fascinatingly layered sheets of sound, Nouns brought aboard better melodic attributes and consistently streamlined production techniques. Nevertheless, the tidier follow-up does maintain street cred with the neuvo ‘no wave’ crowd circulating ‘round the City of Angels and beyond.
As our conversation concludes, Randall quickly accepts my praise then concedes, “We’d definitely like to get things more simpler. We want to do something that’s sparse, atmospheric, and has wide-open spaces. Sort of a minimalist project.”