Out of all the do-it-yourself, scrappier-is-better trash pop outfits infesting the indie scene nowadays, guitar-and-drum duo No Age is probably the most interesting. But, as a mild disclaimer, this ongoing movement of fanboy-as-artist is probably one of the least interesting trends in indie rock since — possibly — ever. While “lo-fi” recordings certainly have their rugged charm, poor production value is never a substitute for solid songwriting. And the majority of the music pumping out of this trend is little more than least-common-denominator garage fuzz.

No Age

Everything In Between
Sub Pop

With 2008’s Nouns, No Age transcended pigeonholing, nailing a magnetic balance between punk-influenced thrashing and shoegazey brainwashing. Everything In Between, No Age’s latest, is still less vanilla than your average lo-fi outing, but finds the band trying to squeeze a poppier, more condensed product out of its raw, color-outside-the-lines aesthetic. And, from the sound of it, it’s clear that No Age isn’t quite ready for the big leagues just yet.

“Life Prowler” kicks things off with an incessantly pulsing drum machine, paving the way for a scratchy-but-harmless wave of single-minded guitar riffs while synth sirens tack on a forced air of synthetic dreaminess. Meanwhile, vocalist Dean Spunt sings vaguely profound lyrics that read like fortune cookie prophecies: “One time is all I need / to know my job’s complete / and when I reach into / myself, my past comes true.” The whole thing feels like a cookie-cutter projection of genuine introspection, and the shruggy chord progressions sound lazy rather than restrained.

“Common Heat,” No Age’s crack at a ballad, follows in this same vein of prescribed “intimacy.” The song strikes an alluringly sandy texture with fast-picked acoustic guitar and insistent shaker, but Spunt’s snotty warble doesn’t bode well for the band’s newfound mode of breezy faux-earnestness: “I get myself up to go to work / But I can’t find my cleanest shirt / There’s no way I can get out of bed now.” The track’s juvenile vibe echoes Best Coast’s petty couch-bum moping, but minus all the droll self-awareness — Spunt just sounds like he’s whining.

Elsewhere, No Age proves it can still crank up the volume … but also write incredibly pedestrian shred-a-thons. “Fever Dream” coasts on the same facile four-second riff for three-and-a-half minutes, tossing in a few of the band’s signature guitar-as-migraine feedback screeches for sorely needed variety. While the hangnail aggression certainly gets the blood pumping, the track exemplifies the record’s repetitiveness.

“Skinned” is even less fun, with Spunt sneering out of tune over midtempo power chords and junkyard snare battering that’s more grating than constructively abrasive. The band seems to be “reining it in” from spontaneously shifty noise collages to a more refined blend of slacker rock, but the record is far too in-your-face to feel believably apathetic. Instead, No Age just sounds like it’s trying way too hard to sound like itself.

“Depletion” and “Shred and Transcend” both feature white-hot guitar solos, but these moments of searing precision mainly just serve to emphasize the structural asphyxiation on the rest of the album.

“Glitter” is the only real standout, with distorted guitars gouging out drama over a tight rhythm of jock-jam drum machine claps and monkey-sprung snare fills, emphasizing the utter lack of tension on the rest of the album.

Rather than delivering the more mature, more calculated album that No Age clearly intended, the band inadvertently flashed us its baby teeth.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.