Clearly, No Age is tied to the punk and noise rock bands that play The Smell. And, only miles from the birthplace of some of punk and hardcore’s most decorated recruits, they show plenty of aural pride for their local history of rock. But while they mainline from the past with ease and restraint, they too are baited by an experimental urge that reeled in their idols. Ironically, LA, known for its atmospheric haze, isn’t similarly in tune with the fuzzy guitar haze emitted by No Age, a pollution culled from the raw material curiously out of place there, more reminiscent of the towering post-punk noise of early Jesus and Mary Chain, a band who, had they access to our digital proclivity for the Big sound, may have broken their earliest smoke-screen guitar distortion from the basement steam room where they simmered, and where No Age too might have resided twenty years ago. Likewise, No Age’s guitarist/vocalist Randy Randall shares the affected, hoarse monotone of the Reid brothers, lifted slightly by the slanted sing-song attentiveness to pacing and melody characterized by classic punk vocalists.
A perfect example is the brooding opening moments of track one, “Every Artist Needs a Tragedy”, which cops the guitar textures and frequencies of Psychocandy, until a sunny guitar hook and drums hitting unison on two and four break the Glasgow fog. Not to harp too heavily on one source; there are other clear indie-indicators. “Boy Void” takes the easy four-chord party of pop-punk and sends them through Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, the whole ditty churned up and spinning until one minute fourty-five seconds in, the cycle ends abruptly. And others have noted the affinity No Age shares with the early 90s west coast grunge acts typified by K Record‘s roster of that period, when Beat Happening and Supreme Cool Beings put out records for the Calvin Johnson label, a man, who not ironically has an upcoming gig at The Smell.
At the same time, No Age channels the hardcore and punk burned into the SoCal landscape. Twenty five years down the line, a band like No Age has a powerful hindsight over others who’ve left their mark in the sand, capable of incorporating the best splinters of innovation into their own rough-hewn pastiche. It’s this freedom that allows angry Black Flag guitar squalls to crash abruptly against cheery Agent Orange surf punk hooks, and incoherent Darby Crash vocals to follow crystal clear anthems of pop punk (“everybody’s down / it’s time to call someone to talk / no one is around”). Most noticeably, the band’s disregard for consistency of vision, or put another way, their penchant to test the limits of their limited guitar and drum setup, is a veritable SoCal punk tradition started by those quirky, uninhibited founders of the history, The Minutemen.
And while No Age may not indulge in a funky jam session mid Weirdo Rippers, the band does transcend its varied influences, reaching towards the contemporaneous and novel in instrumental excursions like “I Wanna Sleep”, where something like wind chimes channeled through a Marshal amp are layered beneath a crackling synthetic melody that shreds on top of looped snare drums. This electronic sound is present throughout the album: likewise, its lo-fi aesthetic is as much posturing as reality. Despite its sometimes messy presentation, there’s a lot of subtlety, like “Everybody’s Down” (quoted above), where tiny digital shards of backwards noise – drum hits or guitars, remain alien from the organic instruments that presumably created them. It’s this other-worldly cloak placed over the meaty guitar ‘n drums body that suggests an extraterrestrial punk rock.