In another case of art imitating art (or is that vice versa?), we have No Age, the story of two young Los Angelenos who have taken the music / art / club world by storm. Remember those two skater kids in the movie High Fidelity who shoplifted and later wowed their shop victims with their music as the Kinky Wizards? Well, think of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall of No Age as the more sophisticated, business savvy and arty version of those dudes and you’re on the right track. First of all, you couldn’t get any more `punk’ sounding names than Dean Spunt and Randy Randall if you tried. With those monikers, they were practically born to play. Of course, if I later find out these aren’t their true birth names, I’m going to be severely disappointed. If that isn’t enough, they released five vinyl EP’s at the same time on different labels. They started their own all-ages (of course) music and art venue in L.A. called `The Smell.’ To top it off, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox namedropped the upstart band as one of his new favorites. But, hey, no pressure!
With Weirdo Rippers, the band’s first proper full-length, which is basically a `best of’ the EP’s collection, No Age not only live up to all of the hype, they exceed it. By the way, my initial thought about the band’s name was that it was some kind of veiled reference to both the idea that youth and vigor belong to everyone, not just the young, and that the band’s music seemed void of any particular historical reference point. Boy, was I wrong. The name was lifted from an SST compilation back in the late ’80s. So, they’ve also got a sense of history, local props and great taste to boot. The album starts with “Every Artist Needs a Tragedy,” a song with more fuzz than a moldy peach or a pubescent teenager. “Boy Void” blisters by at a frantic pace lasting less than two minutes, combining an L.A. punk aesthetic a la Black Flag with a more modern lo-fi sensibility. Two of the best tracks come in “I Wanna Sleep” and “My Life’s Alright Without You.” The former is as hypnotic as any Kevin Shields track while the latter captures the Ramones’ sense of punk just being sped up ’60s Motown tracks. But I’ll be goddamned if it isn’t simple genius.
The sing-song aspect of “Everybody’s Down” follows, which ends in another blast of high-speed noise and tension. It’s hard to believe that you’re just listening to guitar and drums as the sound just pervades every inch of space you have. “Sun Spots” is a more meditative piece of guitar and keyboard noises, beautiful in its simplicity, awesome in its complexity. As I stated earlier, these tracks were culled from five EP’s the band put out early in the year. You’d be hard pressed, however, to figure out how they fit in a chronological sense or even which songs would fit in better with others in their previous incarnations. There’s something comforting about that. It means that each track is enjoyable on its own merits, and can stand alongside any other No Age track existing. Take, for instance, “Neck Escaper.” Randall’s guitars undulate at first like shoegazey waves before switching into bluesy White Stripes-like riffs, yet all while retaining an unique identity that is No Age. Hell, there are times in “Semi-Sorted” when vocalist / drummer Dean Spunt sounds like he’s fronting a Built to Spill cover band, but the music is pure Love as Laughter meets Sebadoh. Go figure.
It’s not often that a band I’ve never heard of pleasantly surprises me. In a sense, I think that’s why all music journalists do what they do. They slog through unoriginal album after unoriginal album, waiting for something to grab them by the eardrums and shake vigorously. After listening to No Age’s Weirdo Rippers, I definitely feel disoriented, dizzy and pleasantly surprised. In other words, I feel like Lucille II from Arrested Development. Whoa! I’m okay! I’m okay!