No Age withholds some of the easy pleasures of punk for more cerebral fun.
Sub Pop, 2013
8.0 / 10
Experimental punk is a tough sell. Punk, as a genre, is defined by its immediacy — it’s fast, it’s loud, and it gets straight to the point. Los Angeles’ No Age has been walking the line between their punk roots and experimental curiosity across four LP’s now. Until now, the band has swapped back and forth between loud, aggressive punk and noisy soundscapes, but the band’s fourth full-length record, An Object, attempts to combine these two binary models. It’s possible that the duo have released an album that is too experimental for the traditional punk crowd, or too punk for the crowd that awaits Animal Collective’s new releases with bated breath. Taken on its own terms, An Object finds the band creating new sounds while writing some of the best material of their career.
The experimentation on An Object is exciting. You’ll get the impression that these two guys are really exploring the sounds they can make and what they can do within the punk genre. Most songs barely reach the three minute mark, so when No Age push into new directions, it’s never in excess. The album is loaded up front with some of its more straightforward songs, and it isn’t until the fifth track, “An Impression,” that An Object becomes something unusual. The band plays with your expectations; melodies, structure, sounds, and lyrics are all potential facets that the band can tinker with. There are a few points where vocalist Dean Spunt sounds bored with what he’s doing, and these songs are generally the more melodic ones (“I Won’t Be Your Generator”, “Running From A-Go-Go”). Even so, the songs are so catchy, it’s almost excusable. The weakest link of the album is its mix – none of the instruments or sounds really stand out. Almost everything sounds like it could be turned up (it’s particularly hard to hear the drums on some songs).
As a record, An Object takes a few listens to really stick; it’s pretty scattered, and the lack of cohesion or through-line makes it feel like a mess of songs at times. On a song-by-song basis, there’s something interesting or exciting going on in nearly every track. Sometimes, these points of interest are immediately apparent: the propulsive music and screeching saxophones of “C’mon Strimmung”, or the irresistible melody of “I Won’t Be Your Generator.” Other times, it’s all about the way a song unfolds (“Commerce, Comment, Commence“) or the way chord-transitions are put together (“A Ceiling Dreams of the Floor”). Dean Spunt and Randy Randall have demonstrated that they can deliver cathartic blasts of punk rock, but what’s impressive is that they restrain themselves for more satisfying, patient payoffs. An Object is a fascinating album because it feels like this is the closest No Age has come to being the band they’ve wanted to be.