No Age - Snares Like A Haircut

by Jon Burke Rating:9 Release Date:2018-01-26
No Age - Snares Like A Haircut
No Age - Snares Like A Haircut

 The latest record from No Age, Snares Like A Haircut, seems designed for this moment in time. The album is filled with intense, frenzied and unrelenting music whose dynamics vary wildly to the point that electro punk-pop bangers (“Drippy”) can precede Pavement-esque, slacker rock (“Send Me”) which is followed by the entirely instrumental title track. The mix of punk guitars, fuzzy noise, electronic beats and atmospherics are also fittingly scattershot as to perfectly capture the mood of 2018.

To say Snares Like a Haircut is a vast improvement on the band’s previous effort, An Object, would be an understatement. I suspect much of this has to do with the band getting some needed distance from the LA art scene where they once spent a lot of time producing and collaborating on art installations curated by Chloë Sevigny’s cousin’s dog… or something to that effect. Regardless, time and distance from their previous recording have led to No Age crafting one of the best albums of 2018 and arguably the best (or at least second-best) album of their career.

Snares Like A Haircut opens with “Cruise Control”, a four-on-the-floor rocker which explodes from a swirling electronic field into a noisy, punk rock anthem. Imagine "Blitzkrieg Bop" if the Ramones were capable of nuanced musicianship and also wanted to butter every track with fuzzy static. The best part about No Age’s obsession with both punk and electronic music is, when anything gets old, all they need to do is move the dial in the other direction. Things getting a little too punk? Just layer in some ambient noise! Does the track (“Snares Like A Haircut”) which sounds like a clicking typewriter surrounded by humming angels seem a little too inaccessible? Follow it with an anthemic, straight-ahead, rocker featuring the album’s best vocal performance and a blistering guitar solo (“Tidal”).

“Soft Collar Fad”, the album’s shortest track, also serves as its first single. The vocals are reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus but the sound is pure propulsive, guitar-driven noise. Similarly, “Secret Swamp” and “Popper” race along at breakneck paces with Dean Sprunt barely able to keep up both his duties as drummer and as the band’s vocalist. Sprunt takes a break on “Third Grade Rave,” another instrumental, in which both Sprunt and guitarist, Randy Randall, get to show-off their chops.

The album concludes with “Squashed” and “Primitive Plus”—two of the record's most intriguing tracks. For its part, “Squashed” thumps and crunches along at a steady pace with dissonant keyboard sounds (almost) twinkling in the background. The keyboards sound a bit like what you expect from Boards of Canada which, oddly, sounds quite nice over waves of distortion and Sprunts’ tightly-wound vocals. The album’s closer, “Primitive Plus,” starts off slowly with Sprunts’ vocals buried way back in the mix. The further the track progresses the clearer the lyrics become. Think of Dan Friel’s work with Parts & Labor or some of Sonic Youth’s more experimental pieces. It’s a bit of an odd decision for a final song on a record this accessible, originating from such a notoriously inaccessible band, but it’s also quite lovely.  

After a couple of records' worth of diminished returns, Snares Like A Haircut has the power and creativity necessary to blast No Age back into the critical limelight. It’s important No Age take note as a band that no affiliation with any art collectives, nor indie street cred nor multimedia installation piece helped to make this record. Instead, Snares Like A Haircut is a testament to the creativity of two people experimenting with the rough beauty of lo-fi pop and the high octane power of electronic beats, keys and loops. You ought to listen to Snares Like A Haircut now and then catch No Age live when they hit the road—and, when get to the venue, be sure to say ‘hi’ to Chloë Sevigny’s cousin’s dog for me.

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