Once upon a time this band from LA became the best band on the planet.
It happened overnight. They got the right manager. They were on just the right label, which got them mainstream promotion, radio play and even an unlimited music video budget. They belted out Aerosmith-akin guitar riffs over groove-funk rhythmics. They rocked giant stadiums with elaborate light shows and dressed in flashy clothing, strutting around the stage in tight pants with women throwing their underwear at them.
Well, not quite.
No Age probably breach all of those rules except one. In fact, their first release, Weirdo Rippers, issued on some label called FatCat, is an unfocused and unapproachable noise session that seems to make no attempt to be meaningful, let alone mainstream and popular.
But it’s all about job experience, building your resume, and that’s precisely what they were doing on Weirdo Rippers. Oh you don’t believe me? These “working stiffs” even imply as much on this very album, on the one-minute, percussion-free track four interlude “Working Stiff Takes a Break,” which leans on the atonal vocal style from Dean Allen Spunt which I know I’ve described on this site as hauntingly epochal, and some sound from multitudinous guitar technician Randy Randall (Spunt is the drummer and singer, just to clear any confusion) of which I’m totally oblivious other than it’s something played backwards, as if to almost mimic the mental phenomenon of rest time reversion somewhat like Four Tet’s similar album aside “Reversing.”
They grew themselves a “focus and a temper” for 2008’s Nouns and were catapulted into the spotlight of indie rock on the strength of a glowing Pitchfork review. They were called clumsily called “punk” despite the fact that their grooves and production more closely channeled Nirvana and mid-era Liars than the hurried-backbeat skittishness of X or Black Flag. It’s just that no other indie band was playing songs that were that loud and also that terse and structurally plain. They shared a label, Sub Pop, at this point, with Beach House, another duo, composed in part of a heartthrob female vocalist crooning out something that bordered on Mamas and the Papas covers. But this band wasn’t destined to melt our hearts with romantic pop songs played in Whole Foods and Starbucks, so they were forced to leave Sub Pop in search of a new employer.
Actually, this latter move has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to them. You can almost palpably hear the sense of freedom that Randall and Spunt are playing with on Goons Be Gone, right from the off-the-beaten-path Western phenomenon of “Sandalwood,” to the chopped, otherworldly bass sound and celestial guitar tones of “Smoothie,” to “Toes in the Water,” a classic instrumental calling to mind the excellent “Dusted” on Everything in between, to infuse the album with an incredible, licentious potentiation of artistic freedom and conceptuality.
I can’t emphasize enough that this is universally enjoyable music, though, as for every sonic left turn and spliced, fu**ed sound, there’s a gorgeous, gushing melody behind it, and a vocal from Dean Spunt that seems interactive with everyday life to the head-turning extent of providing a justified grounding for his uncannily blank and bare singing tone (a tone which often and aptly devolves into atonal spoken word on much of No Age’s material). To actually indicate all of the sound-hewing means that Randy Randall takes toward manifesting this orchard of a rock album is I’m afraid not a task within my current skill set — luckily for us Randall does “Facebook Live” sessions which are pure guitar mechanic tutorials on all of the pedals he uses and stuff he does toward summoning and tweaking sound. He’s also got an album out of guitar music called Sound Field Volume One. What matters at hand, though, is the finished product of No Age’s new album, which is their best and most eclectic work to date and should maneuver itself to the apex of current American alternative rock, rolling the spirit of Deerhunter and summer festivals through some gritty LA catharsis, like an excecutioner staring unflinchingly at his dead.