Music

No Age: Nouns

Never has so much kaleidoscopic noise been produced from such meagre resources: one guitar and one drum kit.


No Age

Nouns

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2008-05-06
UK Release Date: 2008-05-05
Amazon
iTunes

No Age take their name from a compilation released on legendary hardcore label SST. It is a phrase that suggests a punkish desire to not be associated with any particular time, a desire to step outside any perceived lineage, as well as a sly nod to the short-lived New York-based No Wave scene. However, Nouns, No Age's first album proper after last year's EP and singles collection, Weirdo Rippers, is a record steeped in the history of the last 30 years of alternative guitar music. What is astonishing is just how much of it they manage to pack into the album's giddily explosive 30 minutes. What is even more astonishing is the fact that they generate such an intense and heady din (think early hardcore played by My Bloody Valentine with a bit of help from Hüsker Dü) when you consider that there are only two of them: (the splendidly monickered) guitarist/vocalist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt -- a fact I kept having to remind myself of as the music crashed out of the speakers.

Already touted by the mainstream US media, who can't resist the allure of any nascent local scene (No Age are one of a number of bands operating out of LA live "performance" space the Smell), for their initial collection, Nouns finds the duo making great strides in terms of loops, effects pedals, and studio techniques. Though the songs transmit the energy of the live experience, they are slathered in rich fuzzy waves of distortion, a layering effect which means there is always a tremendous amount going on. "Things I Did When I Was Dead", for example, carries a throbbing percussive loop over layers of acoustic guitar and what sounds like a sample from Bernard Herrman's Psycho score, to which they add slightly processed vocals that recall the Butthole Surfers' eerie cover version of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man". "Miner" seems to derive its tempo from a sample of the workings of an enormous piece of industrial machinery.

They may have their roots in the skate-punk scene, but there is an experimental drive apparent here which seems to be taking them in the direction of becoming a more concise, sample-deploying cousin of Sonic Youth. "Impossible Bouquet" is a slab of ambient, effects-heavy guitar drone. Wordless and drumless, it's also a brief paean to the possibilities of guitar chords strummed, looped, and distorted over and over until they become almost hypnotic. This is not something to listen to but something to get lost in. At two minutes long, this idea never outstays its welcome. The same goes for the slightly more sinister Albini-esque chainsaw guitar sounds of "Errand Boy" and the dreamy narcotic haze of "Keechie", which wouldn't sound out of place on one of Dave Pajo's Papa M. albums.

Such is the energy apparent on some of the album's more high-octane tracks, though Nouns at times feels like a physical workout for the two of them as much as a listening experience for the audience. "Sleeper Hold", "Cappo", and "Miner" feature Spunt smashing away at his drums like a wind-up toy that's gone berserk while Randall thrashes furiously, David Gedge-style at his guitar. The breathlessness of all this frantic activity is apparent in their voices, which struggle to emerge from the squall, resembling the sound of people singing while spinning around in a hurricane. This frenetic quality actually enhances the feel of the record: it would have been easy to equalise all the sound levels but it's much more compelling to hear the component parts all struggling to make themselves heard.

As the 12 songs pass by in 31 minutes, the overall effect is nothing short of exhilarating. While their musical antecedents are clearly apparent, at no stage does Nouns feel in any way derivative or familiar. Despite the occasional bout of lyrical nihilism, it mostly sounds like two people having about as much fun as is possible with a guitar, drums, and some studio effects. No Age provide a brash, gutsy antidote to much of the wan, colorless conservatism that passes for alternative music these days. It doesn't happen very often, but this time it would seem that all the hype is entirely justified.

9

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image