To astonishingly little attention, LA’s No Age have released their fifth studio album this winter. This band name is not to be confused with “No Wave,” a 1980s permutation of punk rock music which discouraged the use of melody in any way, or “New Age,” which, interestingly enough, is like the exact opposite of that.
The band of drummer/singer Dean Allen Spunt and guitarist/effects pyrotechnic Randy Randall are busy getting ready for a nationwide tour right now. Also, they’ve apparently chosen not to have their album loaded on to Spotify. All of this, it would seem, adds up to a band which is very “hungry,” both literally and figuratively — perhaps befallen of financially lean times within posh LA living, but also, subject to a certain gut check upon the deservedly dour reception of 2013’s An Object (especially if my site is any indication), and poised to reinstate their identity as a band.
What will strike the listener right away about Snares Like a Haircut, along with the coy title which suggests a newfound ability to have fun and laugh at themselves, is musically a certain lightness and litheness, despite the sound — the attributes of an NFL football player, in other words. And yes, just like NFL games, these songs are planned and scripted beforehand, so that comparison works out I guess.
Anyway, the orgy of multifarious sounds of which Randy Randall is capable on the axe will continue to wow the listener, providing the primary pedestal of No Age’s achievements on Snares Like a Haircut. Dean Spunt’s vocal yowl is back to a sort of laconic second-gear, which is how we know and love him (the alternative being that sort of psychotic uber-irony which could just be cringe-worthy on An Object). It’s arguable at best as to whether any of these songs will match anthemically the band’s cap-feathers like “Eraser” and “Things I Did When I Was Dead” from Nouns or “Glitter” or “Dusted” from Everything in Between, but the songs move and morph within themselves with substantiality as to make Snares Like a Haircut a resounding listen. “Drippy,” with its brief length but unceremonious unleashing of that leaf-blower-sounding effect they use a couple times on Everything in Between, will call to mind twee pop, redone with the requisite LA-punk aggression.
This though brings me to the final point I want to make about No Age at this current time: for pretty much their whole career they’ve been pigeonholed as “punk,” whereas in reality what they’ve done as a duo has been more memorable and meaningful than the average skating brat complaining about rich white dudes. Dean Spunt’s lyrics are personal and human — they’re more like a singer/songwriter in a punk’s body, or a punk’s style (loud drums, loud, fuzzy guitars and short songs). Noise rock is a much apter slogan for them and I’ve never had a problem with that particular description of them, but credit them on Snares Like a Haircut with the accomplishment of letting their noise adorn the already-in-place, fully manifest songs, rather than trying to add some cheesy, blank or obligatorily “punk” aspects to some blank noise, which lesser bands might have done.