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No Age - Everything in Between

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Artist: No Age

Album: Everything in Between

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Sep. 24, 2010

It’s interesting that No Age is so frequently described as “punk,” because the key influence on Everything in Between actually seems to be My Bloody Valentine. The album swims in fuzz, and several of its tracks (including one called “Dusted,” and thanks for that, No Age - the check’s in the mail) are instrumentals based on dreamy looping patterns that are straight out of MBV, or maybe the Kranky Records catalog.

The “punk” comes from No Age’s background in the hardcore punk act Wives, and also from No Age’s modesty. Everything in Between doesn’t feel like a grand aesthetic project – the lyrics are sung matter-of-factly, usually within a tiny melodic range, and they’re never particularly evocative. And No Age’s particular brand of MBV-esque noise sounds grimy and cheap, even if the production values on No Age’s records have improved somewhat over the years. The wave of ’90s (and late ’80s) bands influenced by My Bloody Valentine – Slowdive, Lush, and so on – were known as “shoegaze,” which was a weird thing to call them, since most sounded like they were looking up, at the vastness of the cosmos. No Age sounds like it’s actually looking at its shoes.

The common thread here is the 1990s – not only No Age’s shoegaze-y sound but its modest approach descend from that decade (and from the college-rock of the 1980s – the name “No Age” is a reference to the iconic ’80s indie label SST). If No Age had actually been around in the ’90s, it would’ve been known as indie rock – the band’s fuzzed-out sound and modest vocal approach would have earned it a spot on the roster of some long-forgotten label like Amphetamine Reptile or Grass or Headhunter. (That No Age is now “punk” shows how much indie rock has changed since then.)

On Everything in Between, No Age’s sound remains intact from its previous records. They still don’t really make songs so much as they patch their albums together, often with juxtapositions that are slightly jarring and non-intuitive. The key difference is that the scraps of fabric they’re using – the bits that they’re sewing together – keep getting more interesting. Weirdo Rippers, which compiled No Age’s early releases, was enjoyable because of its uncompromising spirit and because of the way it seemed glued together. The materials themselves, which could sound banal if you only listened to a minute or two, didn’t do much of the work.

That isn’t the case on Everything in Between – there’s a horrifying scream-like sound that appears throughout “Fever Dreaming,” for example, and several other songs mate looping patterns with live instruments in a way that manages to sound off-kilter but purposeful. The vocals are still pretty banal, as No Age still does way too many three-note melodies that awkwardly set lyrics like “Thoughts surround me / Everywhere I go / I don’t fear nothing / Unless it’s broke.

That isn’t too severe a criticism, though, since punk vocals are supposed to be simple and since we shouldn’t expect, or even necessarily want, polished songwriting on this kind of record. No Age’s career so far has been based on the idea that music shouldn’t be perfect, and that, finally, is what is most “punk” about them. Everything in Between is as fine a monument to imperfection as they’ve built so far.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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