No Age - An Object

by Daryl Worthington Rating:9 Release Date:2013-08-19

Anyone who has read Michael Azerad's seminal history of American post-punk and hardcore; Our Band Could Be Your Life, is likely to have a romantic idyll of bands achieving success through hard work and imagination, sleeping in fuel-fume polluted vans and making a modest living through relentless touring and an uncompromising artistic vision. In a post- Nevermind, world this approach to the music industry seems increasingly rare and redundant, which makes the success of No Age's strict DIY ethos, activism and messy punk racket all the more refreshing.

The last two albums by the LA duo found them refining an increasingly song-based sound, a unique version of pop punk which served as a modernised expansion of the likes of Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. An Object has the band reconciling these improved songwriting chops with a development of the lo-fi sonic experiments found on their debut collection of EP's, Weirdo Rippers. An Object is a fuzz-blurred hybrid of angsty pop and textural experiments, the sound of two people with a clutch of instruments and pedals, trying to make the biggest sound they can.

Opener 'No Ground' is driven by monstrous, distorted bass and layers of simple guitar-lines, the only percussion on the track a metronomic snare hit somewhere in the background. 'Circling With Dizzy' is a chugging piece of noisey hardcore - "There's no use complaining, I'm broke." However, this raw, simple track is covered in angular guitar blasts and a croaking low-end noise that sounds like someone playing a contact mic with a cheese-grater. The idea of songs as 'an object' is toyed with throughout the album, as forms are subtly messed with and manipulated. Even on 'I Won't Be Your Generator', the addictive big chorus that every No Age album seems to have at least one of is shrouded in feedback and distortion-drenched guitars, giving it a scuzzy beauty.

The core of No Age is still thrashy lo-fi punk; however, the songs have been slowed down and pulled apart so each detail can be looked at more closely. 'An Impression' seems to be a love song to the impression of an object rather than its physical form. The track is built on a loop of staccato bass plucks and a sweet melody. By the end, the abstract sounds floating around this main idea combine together into something almost orchestral, as the lines of reversed guitars start to play around each other like a static-drenched Mark Mcguire. Again, No Age are toying with the form of a song, making something melodic from what other bands would treat merely as texture.

The Dadaist title of the album, An Object, is reminiscent of the kind of conceptual approaches to art as commodity as engaged with by the likes of Gang of Four and Wire. More than on previous albums, No Age seem to be exploring a single idea throughout rather than just putting together a collection of songs. 'Ceiling Dreams of a Floor' literally personalises architectural structures, whereas the album closer, the slow-building, almost ambient 'Comerce, Comment, Commence' does the reverse, comparing intangibles with physical objects :"Time opens up, like the back of a pickup truck."

Like Gang of Four and Wire, No Age have formed an album around a self-imposed and unified aesthetic. It is by no means a concept album, with all the sword-fights and on-ice performances that entails. The roots of the album are still short, sharp pop songs, but on top that it shows a band considering every element of their music, from the sound to the physical form, to make a cohesive artistic object.

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