No Age: Ultimate Alternative Wavers

LA duo revive the sadly neglected spirit of shattered pop and lo-fi amateurism

Everybody has a different definition of "indie rock." For this American dude who smoked mad weed and aimlessly wandered some Midwestern campus in the mid-'90s, it will always be about shattered pop buried in temperamental noise and lo-fi amateurism. That's why I can't fucking deal with modern indie: The music has been scrubbed clean of all the sonic goop that made it so much more vital than the professional drones climbing the charts. Nowadays, big brand names like the Shins and the National share more in common with Train frontman Pat "Do I Look Like an AA Sponsor or What?" Monahan than, say, Perfect Sound Forever–era Pavement, a band that would surely be tagged "noise-rock" or "experimental" if they were to come up through the ranks in 2008.

Now that's some nostalgic bullshit for sure. And nostalgia's for suckers. But you know what? We're all sucking something, be it the past, the present, or the future. So let's move on to L.A.'s No Age, and how the axe-'n'-drums duo has (along with a bunch of other young guns like Times New Viking and Pink Reason) reconnected with the quirky and all-too-damaged spirits coursing through old-school American indie rock. Nouns' title stinks compared to that of their 2007 debut, Weirdo Rippers, but the jams are way better. There's this distorto-pop thrasher called "Teen Creeps" that rules the world. The lyrics—"Teen creeps I've seen you on my street/Teen creeps get what they want, and me/I won't end up like them at all"—could've been penned by Beat Happening or Some Velvet Sidewalk or some other K Records icon. Singing drummer Dean Spunt even croons those words as if he's the hard-rocking Doug Martsch of Treepeople, not the whiny drip behind Built to Spill.

Early favorite for Best Ironic Hat 2008
Ed Templeton/Subpop.com
Early favorite for Best Ironic Hat 2008

But it isn't all retro tricks for No Age—few of their tunes are built with the standard verse-chorus-verse framework. Instead, the group utilizes a lock-groove repetition (like the peak of a nitrous high) that betrays many late nights and early mornings spent obsessing over all those awesome records by Lightning Bolt and Animal Collective. For better or for worse, No Age is even hip to the noise/drone scene: Of Nouns' 12 tracks, about a third are really nothing more than sampler-abetted clouds of pulsating static. Weirdo Rippers had way more of these, but one is one too many, in my opinion. I mean, it's cool and all that Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall flirt with avant-shenanigans, but what No Age do best is revive all the endearingly cracked humanity that indie rock used to contain.

 
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