No Age – An Object (Sub Pop)CD/LP/DL
Available from 19th August 2013
Experimental punk group No Age are back with their fourth album, An Object. Louder Than War contriubtor Craig Johnson has had time to sit down with it and has penned the following review. The album is streaming ahead of it’s release over at NPR so should you want a soundtrack as you read this review head over HERE.
With their previous three albums, No Age have been developing a sound that goes beyond the standard punk duo paradigm, to create a sound that not only focuses itself on traditional song writing but also the textures of sound that come with it. Managing to distance themselves from their contemporaries they seamlessly blend short, poppy punk songs with ambient layers of noise which works to great effect. Now onto their fourth album, An Object, they’ve taken this formula, tweaked it slightly and got another great record on their hands.
When listening to a No Age album, I find they’re generally split into two parts. You have your standard punk songs, which are great, then you also have the more experimental tracks slotted in between, sort of like palette cleansers in between the barrage of guitar and drums. However, with An Object, it feels as if they’ve tried to merge the two together. While there are definitely stand out songs, so to speak, they all seem to have an additional layer of sound wrapped around them. Take “Defector/ed” for example, on the surface it’s a fairly straightforward track, but delve deeper and you begin to notice a plethora of different sounds and textures hidden just below the surface. Combining the traditional song writing with experimental sounds sometimes comes off badly but here it works perfectly without feels forced.
With the first three tracks on the album, you feel like you’re in for more of the same and that’s fine, but it’s after those three initial tracks that you start to realise the artistry behind An Object. They manage to straddle a fine line between a standard punk rock band and an experimental noise outfit. It’s a refreshing change to see someone combine these two with such success. To be honest, I don’t know which side of it I prefer. While this record does have some real rock anthems, such as album opener No Ground, that you just cant help nod along to, I think the more abstract, noisier side of the band has more of an appeal to me. I mean they don’t go to the extreme ends of each spectrum and that’s ok. Sometimes you don’t have to be defined as one particular thing or lumped into any particular category. As long as whatever you’re making sounds good then it’s fine. I’ve got music in my collection ranging from extreme metal and brutal hardcore to ultra harsh noise, but I’ve also got a ton on music that takes individual aspects of each and combines them to find themselves in completely new territory. I think it’s great to see that bands are still finding ways to bring different genres of music together in a world where a lot of music feels bland and stale.
Standout track for me is album closer Commerce, Comment, Commerce. It’s a complete deconstruction of the bands writing style and sees the vocals and instrumentation pushed back against a wall of feedback and distortion. Starting out as a soft whisper, Spunt repeats short verses seemingly talking about the track itself “Time open up, like the back of a pick up truck”. It’s after these initial musings that a wall of sound takes over and a cacophony of delectable grainy fuzz builds up, managing to engulf the entire track until it eventually meets it’s demise, fading out into nothing and bringing the album to a close.
For me, it’s a step in the right direction. While the guitar/drum duo tends to become an increasing popular band setup, it’s hard to stay ahead in the game without becoming stale. Luckily, No Age has managed to product a brilliant album that is ever so slightly different and still feels fresh on each repeat listen. I mean I’ve played it through a good five or six times and I’m not sick of it yet.
You can find No Age at the following places: