The LA duo No Age don’t cut a stereotypical hardcore-punk profile, but they are torch-carrying lifers nonetheless. This became crystal-clear recently at the Pitchfork Festival 2011, when they dropped a fist-pumping cover of the Misfits howler “Hybrid Moments” into their set. In that moment, their submerged hardcore roar surfaced. Afterward, we caught up with them for a video interview. Watch their 90 Seconds or Less as they discuss their love of Danzig, the Misfits, and, er, Mike Tyson.
No Age On … Danzig
"I don't fear God/ I don't fear anything at all." Those are words Dean Spunt, drummer and vocalist for L.A.'s No Age, sings on "Glitter." You can make out each word, each syllable, each droning letter. This has been a rare occurrence for No Age, understanding all of it. But now on their third album, Everything In Between, clarity is everything: in voice, in execution, in feeling. Spunt's chorus on the song is even clearer: "I want you back underneath my skin." And like that, arty thrash punks become reflective poets and romantic interlocutors.
Everything is not an abandonment of No Age's slash-and-burn-and-re-slash ethic — just a fine tuning, or a minor softening. Guitarist Randy Randall is acoustic here more than ever, letting Spunt sing, in an often charmingly amateurish way, about frustration, confusion, disappointment and resilience. On "Common Heat," they're "in trouble." But then, on the martial stomping "Skinned," they're chest-beating once more. No Age's songs have always had a round, repetitious quality, owing to all of Randall's pedal work and feedback-drenching. But now the songwriting moves in circles, too. As Abe Vigoda, their contemporaries from L.A.'s famed club The Smell, simultaneously explore electronic textures and more traditional pop songwriting, No Age have begun to turn noise over to nuance, not unlike how forbearers Hüsker Dü did on 1985's Flip Your Wig.
In the past, the collision of noise and melody, as on, say, Weirdo Rippers' "My Life's Alright Without You" saw the band at their most innovative and raw. But now a loop-driven brightness, and almost new age vision of sound, audible on the oscillating "Sorts," has come to define this once-snotty duo. By the time album closer "Chem Trails" begins, the through line from 2008's gorgeous, acoustic "Neck Escaper" is complete. This ain't growing up, necessarily. But it ain't giving up, either.
Part of Sub Pop's mission is documenting fertile underground-rock scenes, and one of the liveliest of recent years is centered on the L.A. club The Smell. Its house band, more or less, is this arty, chaotic duo. No Age's music is only a part of their broader package of design and artifact-creation, and like most of the rest of the things they've put their name on, it balances accidents and spontaneity with a deliberate, neon-gaudy aesthetic — some of the tracks here are through-composed noise-pop songs, some of them are improvised textural pieces, and in a few cases it's hard to tell. Randy Randall sings like somebody's dragging him away from the microphone (his lyrics usually abjure sense almost altogether: "It's a problem without too/ Trying to come up inside"); Dean Spunt's drumming is loud, hard and minimalist. The center of No Age's sound, though, is Randall's coruscating waves of guitar noise — sometimes just layers of grot and buzz, sometimes coalescing into itchy riffs whose simplicity connects the band to the generations of L.A. punks before them.
The LA duo No Age don't cut a stereotypical hardcore-punk profile, but they are torch-carrying lifers nonetheless. This became crystal-clear recently at the Pitchfork Festival 2011, when they dropped a fist-pumping cover of the Misfits howler "Hybrid Moments" into their set. In that moment, their submerged hardcore roar surfaced. Afterward, we caught up with them for a video interview. Watch their 90 Seconds or Less as they discuss their love of Danzig, the Misfits, and, er, Mike Tyson.