no age

Showing 22 posts tagged no age

When I was growing up, there was a certain mystique, like you had to be special, you had to be friends with Thurston Moore in order to be cool. You had to be somebody to be somebody. I still look at myself as a punk, as a kid. When people come talk to me, I want to bring the secrets back, ‘MTV is really just a room with some lights, and Rihanna won’t talk to you. What you kids are doing here is radder because you’re open and you’re expressive and you want to talk to people.’ The idea is bringing back secrets from the cool kid party: it’s not that cool. Sometimes I feel like I’m an undercover spy for the rejects.

Randy Randall in an interview with The Fader (issue #58, December 2008)

Track

Life Prowler

Artist

No Age

Album

Everything in Between

No Age - “Life Prowler”

You could venture to say that Everything in Between begins with a heartbeat.

Though it’s not technically the real sound of a beating heart, Dean Spunt’s kick drum persistently thumps like it, in the same way a heart beats in anticipation of an uncomfortable but necessary event. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a particularly confrontational person: my skin tightens up, my tongue tries to recoil into the back of my throat. It’s a generally horrific sight. A few seconds into the song, a droning buzz that gradually gets louder, mimicking the human brain catching a migraine that gets progressively worse, not pulsating or throbbing, just a constant hum blocking you from clear thoughts.

In a lot of ways, Everything in Between feels like a breakup record. The most obvious of which being a breakup from the last years of youth and into the realm of real-ass adulthood (Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall were both born in 1981), complete with existential crises over laundry before work (“Common Heat”), lacking both a good credit score and belief in a higher power (“Skinned”), requisite late-twenties apprehension (“I’m not ready for the world, you know,” from “Skinned”) and the very grown-up need for comfort (Spunt sings, “I’m surrounded by what I feel is safe” on album closer “Chem Trails”). But more overlooked than pulling the ripcord before the plunge into whatever comes after your 30th birthday is the feeling that another cord has been severed on Everything in Between.

Snatches of a one-sided domestic argument can be heard all over the record: “You only want me when I’m gone.” “When I’m standing without you.” “I want you bad underneath my skin.” The instrumental tracks (and downcast numbers like the aforementioned “Skinned,” with lyrics like “I don’t feel nothing more / I don’t feel bad about myself again”) provide those still moments where you’ve split from a long-term relationship and the days drag out agonizingly.

So while “Life Prowler” can also feel like the moment someone’s staring down the rest of their existence, looking to muster the courage to make it through, it also feels like the beginning of the end of something besides what is perceived as youth. It feels like someone talking themselves up to let go. “One time is all I need / To know my job’s complete / And when I reach into / Myself, my past comes true.” Something’s not working anymore, and it has to end in order to preserve oneself. In spite of the anguish, the guitars and samples sound almost optimistic; the deep breath is taken, the damage has been done.

"I don’t got time," sings Spunt at the song’s finish, "I don’t got nothing left for you." End scene.

In the context of live shows, No Age has a reputation for playing in places that aren’t traditionally known for hosting bands, including the Los Angeles Public Library, Portland vegan grocery store Food Fight, and even along the banks of the Los Angeles River.

As much as they’re lauded for an approach to music that feels novel and fresh to many listeners, a lot of the things No Age does is deeply rooted in punk tradition, from screenprinting their own t-shirts to making sure they’re able to play all-ages shows. One way they’ve been able to do the latter is to play free in-stores and secret shows in not only basements and DIY spaces, but somewhat unlikely venues, such as the above three locations.

It’s kind of funny when people go to SXSW for the first time and remark about how cool it is to see a band play a set in the shop window of an Urban Outfitters or the backroom of a pizza store, because the practice of just plugging in anywhere and bashing away at your instruments— and the sense of all-inclusiveness it fosters— is something that has never left punk music, and it’s nice to see a band like No Age institute such a thing into their touring schedule as regularly as they do.

No Age - “Eraser”

When the debut single for Nouns was released, it was kind of a red herring in the band’s small but formidable catalog. Sure, they had married the concepts of hardcore- and noise-punk with a slight hint of bubblegum aftertaste in the past, but the opening riff of “Eraser” is jangly in a way that no No Age track had ever been previously. It begins as a pop tune in every sense of the word, right down to Dean Spunt’s measured tapping of that tambourine. But there’s that ominous sound in the distance, an oscillating drone barely within earshot.

And just like clockwork, Randy Randall’s guitar causes a blaring explosion and Spunt spins lyrics of broken windows and witnesses being compensated. The oscillating drone is turned up to a pretty brutal volume, and by the end of the song, Spunt is screaming at the top of his lungs, “Wait for the foreman, now get paid! / Wait to see the list of shit you made!” His voice doesn’t try to rise above the din, but to be a part of it.

One thing a lot of people don’t tell you about punk is that most of the good stuff is marked with self-sabotage. No Age could have easily turned “Eraser” into a pop-punk anthem of sorts, riding that jangle all the way to Sub Pop’s All-Time Best Sellers list. But instead, they figured that creating something that challenges the listener a little less goes against how much fun it probably was to record a song like this. Ultimately, everybody likes to make noise, and the exuberance of it all is exactly how “Eraser” succeeds wildly.

A point that Spunt and Randall have both stressed is how the visual component of No Age is every bit as important as the musical one. The video for “Eraser” is essentially No Age being the house band for somebody’s backyard party, but its simplistic concept is bolstered by its idiosyncrasies: the bucket of flour being thrown in Randall’s face, the several false starts where he and Spunt are racing to their instruments, the annihilation of said instruments and a pinata. It’s a gorgeously shot music video, as well, bursting with life and color and the watery blur that perfectly matches up with growling drone in the background. Color is very important to this song, because with the grayscale hues that coursed throughout Weirdo Rippers, “Eraser” was No Age’s first sign of proof that their music could be as prismatic as it is energetic.

Track

Teen Creeps

Artist

No Age

Album

Nouns

No Age - “Teen Creeps”

Whenever I listen to this song, a specific image enters my mind. It’s one of a sunny day in the suburbs, and there’s a trio of kids pedaling like hell through the streets. The kids are moving as fast as they can, away from something. Maybe a gang of bullies. Maybe a security guard who caught them lighting firecrackers in the grocery store parking lot. “Teen Creeps”— and most of Nouns, really— evokes a feeling of teenage suburban malaise, like there is this unknown, masked entity coming to eradicate the punk kids and adolescent outcasts.

"This town will take you kissing trees," sings Spunt over the pounding, driving music of the track. "Before you see the forest bleed." It becomes apparent that just like the titular teen creeps up the block, the suburbs themselves are out to get you. "I hate you more, I hate this place." I’m sure nearly everyone who has lived in the suburbs has felt this way at some point, the mounting disdain one grows for the faceless, hollow McMansions sprouting all over where they grew up. We’re all looking for a bit of escapism, but "Teen Creeps" is not it. It’s the long, hard look around that makes you desperate to leave the miserably vanilla middle-class life and inhabit a place with actual substance.

Twenty Inanimate Objects No Age’s Guitars and Samples are Made to Sound Like

This should go without saying and is probably the first thing everybody finds out about them, but No Age is one of a long line of bands that use noise as a compositional element. But whereas Sonic Youth used alternate tunings and screwdrivers, the Jesus and Mary Chain used overdriven amp feedback, and My Bloody Valentine used all of Creation Records’ money (I kid) to conjure new, beautifully abrasive sounds, No Age has taken an even greater amount of care to craft noise into texture, experimenting with their self-recorded samples until they find the perfect sound to bolster their tunes. And very often, those sounds are incredibly unmusical, which naturally makes their music sound really cool.

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No Age - “Keechie”

This is the song that exists on a different plain than all of the rest of the songs on Nouns. Weirdo Rippers was full of floaty, ambient / noise tracks, often sharing the same track space as their punk barnburners, whereas Nouns— with the exceptions including but not limited to “Errand Boy,” which was basically a reverse play of the noise-first-punk-song-second template of most of the tracks compiled for Weirdo Rippers— was mostly packed, crammed with bite-sized blasts of shoegaze-leaning punk tunes, quickly transitioning from one song to the next and wrapping up in a fiery blaze of glory in just a half-hour.

"Keechie" is a song that breaks up the pace a little, one that allows you to catch your breath before flipping the vinyl to Side Two and getting pummeled by the blitzkrieg of "Sleeper Hold". For a band admittedly not well-versed in ambient music when recording the album, "Keechie" does an incredible job of straddling the line between abrasion and beauty, the peaceful, gorgeous eye in the middle of the whipping cyclone that is Nouns.

No Age - “Eraser (live on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson)”

Here’s a letter Randy posted on the No Age Blog after the controversy that surrounded his decision to wear a Barack Obama shirt during their performance in the thick of election season:

Hello All,

I have recently come under what can only be called extreme censorship. On Oct 2nd No Age was scheduled to perform on the Late Late show with Craig Ferguson, to be broadcasted on CBS later this month. I felt it was important to voice my choice for presidential candidate, Barack Obama, seeing as the episode would air 8 days before election day. We rehearsed on the stage and were waiting to film our performance when I was told that I would not be able to wear my Barack Obama t shirt.

I was shocked, it seemed like some kind of joke, especially coming from a show like the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, produced by David Letterman’s production company World Wide Pants. The representatives of CBS said that by wearing an Obama T-shirt I would be violating the FCC rule of equal time for all candidates. However there there is a doctrine of fairness that former President Ronald Reagan and current president George W Bush supported the repeal of in order to allow themselves more time in the media. Regardless, the Equal time rule clearly favors candidates with more financial support. Ralph Nader and Ron Paul are not seen nearly as much as Obama and McCain. 

I had to look at what I was up against and with 5 minutes before we were supposed to shoot I had only a hand full of options. I could either A) walk away from the show and decline from appearing on the show, or B) change my T-shirt. My first choice was A.

However, after talking way past the 5 minute mark, Dean and I decided that it would be better to take advantage of the stage we had at our disposal. I decided to make an appeal for “Free Health Care” on my T-shirt seeing as I was unable to voice my support for Barack Obama. Access to affordable health care is an issue very near to my heart for many personal reasons and I am sure that many of you can relate. I have lost and stood by as many of my close family members have battled with terrible illnesses. I have myself gone through traumatic hospitalizations only to come out the other side alive but horribly in debt. 

I encourage all of you to speak out about your political views and your feelings about the many issues that are up for discussion at this crucial time in American history. CBS and major media outlets DO NOT speak for me. I do not look to corporate media to inform my views on the issues. Together through our communities we can make a difference and make it a point to express our views in order to shape our world into a better place.

Thank you,
Randy Randall