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Beginning this past March, Los Angeles duo No Age released five impeccably decorated, vinyl-only EPs on five different labels. The blitz coincided with a seemingly endless string of live shows-- the kinds you go home and tell friends about. Not a bad one-two punch. Shattering eardrums in clubs is the most natural way to spread the word about your band, and their records were a smart way to spread a wealth of material while creating colorful collector's items in the process. Weirdo Rippers, an 11-song compilation consisting of highlights from those records, stitches songs together by sound and feel, rather than presenting them chronologically. The songs flow together swimmingly, and despite track-by-track brevity (three songs are under two minutes, three are under three) the group has mastered a low-tech immensity, and the album builds into something much bigger than its constituent parts.
Guitarist Randy Randall and singing drummer Dean Spunt nabbed "No Age" from the 1987 SST compilation of the same name. The album featured Black Flag, Blind Idiot God, Henry Kaiser, Pell Mell, and others taking a stab at instrumental music-- not a bad historical, aesthetic, or West-Coast linkage. The band's coolly detached, eye-catching design schemes aren't random, either: Randall and Spunt, who were two-thirds of beloved noise-rockers Wives, are firmly entrenched in the L.A. DIY/art scene. They collaborate on visual/performance/video art and are connected to grassroots art space the Smell-- the building on the cover of Weirdo Rippers-- where you can score vegan pancakes, drink orange juice, and get a $5 haircut while watching Silver Daggers bleed the speakers. No Age played their first show there in April. (Continuing with the multi-trasking, Spunt also runs PPM! records, which has put out music by Wives, Mika Miko, KIT, Shoplifting, and John Wiese.)
A loud duo with art credibility, a massive touring schedule, and a one-man label in its ranks brings Lightning Bolt to mind; but No Age have a softer surf-psychedelic side that conjures another twosome: old Olympia favorites Kicking Giant. Or, as another Pitchfork staffer pointed out, the best K Records fuzz-rock band of all time, Lync. No Age, though, goes into an even airier, bedroom-pretty realm, with a punk rawness to their delivery. Their oft-chanted hooks (see "Boy Void" or "Every Artist Needs A Tragedy") are out-of-phase, the approach sloppy and spastic. At the same time, these songs come off soporific, restful, and totally in control. Nothing grates. It all feels soft and up-close.
"I Wanna Sleep", maybe a mellow response to Harry Pussy's "I Don't Care About Sleep Anymore", is a feedback lullaby beneath mellow, chugging guitars. A similar rhythm opens "My Life's Alright Without You", which jump-cuts suburban goth to the Dickies' nasal enunciations ("Well, I hate you/ I hate you/ My life's alright without you"), only after a shuffling loop. Every now and again the drums and vocal kick disappear, revealing that trippiness, which never quite goes away. "Everybody's Down" (full disclosure: I included it on a CD I recently curated) is the most rousing, kick-ass song I've heard in a while. Opening with brief spate of backwards distortion strands, it shifts to a speedy strum and doubled vocals shouting teen-bleak lyrics that culminate with a poppy shout of angstful communalism: "Everybody's down/ Every soul in every town/ Everybody's got me going 'oooh ahhh ooh ahh ooh ahh ooh'." A speedier shout and dust-kicking drum'n'guitar wrap it up with a clatter.
Deerhunter's Bradford Cox recently called No Age his favorite new band. Like Cox's crew, Randall and Spunt seem to be creating their own universe. In "Loosen This Job", after drum sticks tap out a code and distortion gently floods the room, Spunt asks, "Why are there so many records in my life?" Or at least it sounds like that. It's hard to tell. Whether or not that's what he says, or what he means, he's right. Despite an overload of music these days, if often feels like there are fewer essential listens. At the end of Weirdo Rippers, you're left with a rare sense of having discovered something new. Outside just their sound, No Age bring back the DIY energy of Kicking Giant and Lync and '90s zines and, importantly, a life away from computer screens. The songs have thumping heartbeats. Each and every one. All the jangling feedback loops and cymbal submersions in the world can't hide that.
-Brandon Stosuy, June 12, 2007
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