Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Most of the time, when a No Age song starts, it's as if an old-time, manual garage door is opening up - kind of folding down, then over and up on itself - and already tearing into it is the Los Angeles band of guitarist Randy Randall and singer/drummer Dean Allen Spunt. A cover piece about the two, in an issue of Fader magazine last year, quoted them as being devoted do-it-yourself-ers, thriving on a the small, local niche scenes that foster much purity and devotion in fans and bands alike. They still prefer playing at house and basement shows, performing in front of all ages crowds - shows that might not net an exceptionally lucrative guarantee payout, but will most definitely win them fans that will loyally follow anyone they've been able to chat up in a dirty kitchen, right next to the living room where the "stage" just was. Randall and Spunt make the kind of music that is best left untouched, sans any sort of accoutrements or enhancement. It's best left pouring from an open garage that smells like gasoline and stale lawn clippings. It's better if we hear it coming out of shitty speakers - whatever PA system could be scrounged up at the last minute when the one the high school-aged promoters were counting on suddenly fell through. It's rebellious music for those who leave their rebellions behind when the music gets turned off, or the sticks are laid on the still shaking snare. Spunt sings, at one point on "Teen Creeps" - from the band's 2008 Sub Pop Records debut album "Nouns" - "I won't end up like them at all/Wash away what we create/I hate you more/I hate this place/I know why I feel this way/Teen creeps please don't leave me dead, dead this way/I won't end up like them at all." The band seems to continually get at the crux of various aspects of suburbia - the living there as a person growing up and wanting desperately to not have to grow old there, a fate that couldn't get any worse - in its writing, keeping its sights on this restlessness of youth and the revolt of it. There's a kick back, like a mule, kids freaking out that there's nothing they'll be able to do to not wind up like their old man or their mom. There is so much raw fury and so much resignation in all of these skuzzy, ear-pleasing noise nuggets that they sound as if they should be from the heydays of slacker phenomenon, from all the way back in the early 90s, when we were just starting to see the films of Richard Linklater. These are the songs for and by boys who made the conscious decision to sit around and noodle with guitars and slam away on trap sets in their mildew-smelling basement laundry rooms, practicing for hours next to the Ping-Pong table. It's music for those who conquered "The Legend of Zelda" and didn't stop there. Randall and Spunt pack so much more into the drums/guitar duo paradigm than most do, giving us so much rambunctious energy and so much extra space, along with the various little treats - the short and sweet guitar trills, the kooky background sounds, the hollowed out rattlings, the distorted and sweaty vocals a la The Thermals and an electric land that feels as if we're getting our fingers into live sockets. They sing about all of the different kinds of lonesomeness, not just the kind that we all think we know a good deal about. They are the kinds of solo echoes and the barrenness that chill us to the core and feel as if they'll never let us just go on with our lives. They go back to those thoughts of being stuck in a place with no chance of escape - some form of desertion and entrapment. They let their people dance alone, but they give them the instruments to bang around with, the power strips to plug it all into and a well-swept garage that can be used at any hour of the day. You can hear the muffled distortion and the swells of their love of fuzziness coming from blocks away - like spit and frustration bouncing off an overturned couch - and the night ripe for some scuffling.
No Age Official Site
Sub Pop Records