No Age No AgeEverything In Between
Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Spunt have gone from being the no-fi icons of The Smell scene to rubbing elbows in higher spheres. Since they put out “Nouns” in 2008, they have been nominated for a Grammy, some of their songs have been played at the MoMA, and they have opened themselves up to the area of soundtracks, a territory that is, in theory, at the opposite end of the spectrum from their sound idea. Revisions of Jean-Jacques Annaud and commissions for Rodarte notwithstanding, such sophistication could have led them astray, but their do-it-yourself side remains incorruptible. In “Everything in Between”, their third studio LP, their four prodigious hands still sound like an army. Randall and Spunt’s strategy hasn’t changed a bit, continuing to be that of the best generals. They know very well that catching the enemy off guard is always the best way to knock him out. After such a substantial album (it’s worth repeating) as “Nouns”, the Los Angeles duo made a deductive decision: they have chosen not to so much to continue to scale the steep line of rock abstraction, but rather to specify and fix their sound within more… conventional limits.
It has taken them six months to record “Everything in Between”, a work that is not No Age’s most ambitious work, but which is that most potentially accessible to the greater public. Its finish is less aggressive in the destruction of stylistic barriers, but the duo’s muscle is still fibrous, pure raw power. The aspiration of providing garage with ambient edges is still equally present, although the spotlight doesn’t light them up, blinding them, anymore. Now the point of view taken is more decidedly pop, and it takes advantage of more major melodies and fireworks of choruses linked to songs that are definitely more direct. This is why, beyond all prefixes, “Everything in Between” sounds simply and plainly like a great rock album.
Some keys to the style and structure of the songs. They almost all start from Velvet or, what amounts to the same thing, from the infinite seeds sown by the supposed fathers of rock. Their most crystal-clear reflection is seen in “Skinned”, although it stands out tremendously in “Common Heat” (Velvet from the very title) and in the seductive “Chem Trails”, with one voice higher than the other in style of the purest “Lady Godiva’s Operation” . “Depletion” and the final rush of “Valley Hump Crash” fast forward twenty years to stand next to Hüsker Dü, another of the fingerprints stamped in fire on No Age’s identity card. Following these coordinates, it’s inevitable to define the fantastic “Fever Dreaming” as a My-Bloody-Valentine cage to hold the Ramones. The long shadow of Kevin Shields is present both in the more frontal sections and in the more atmospheric ones ( “Katerpillar”). He freely governs the second half of the album, sheltering in his lap the nebulous “Sorts” and the two instrumental pieces composed individually by Dean ( “Dusted”) and Randy ( “Positive Amputation”).
It’s on this second part of the album where we find traces of a No Age closer to “Nouns”, more concerned with blurring the edges of rock and less with trying to set its limits. All in all, the general balance of “Everything in Between” is that of specificity ( “Glitter” and “Shared and Transcend” are sensational) and that of a more defined precision in which they refer to the unbreakable commandments of punk-rock. Although seen as a whole “Everything in Between” doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, one of the best treatises on texture recently, the power is equally evident, and the skeleton is still sturdy. We will say that rather than shaking up the listener in the middle of a blizzard, it makes the listener scan it from afar, helping him to get ready to ride out the storm. It may not mean such a decisive step in the aesthetic reinvention of punk that has become the duo’s calling card. To make a precise comparison, we’ll conclude by theorising that more than the expected change from “Isn’t Anything” to “Loveless” (My Bloody Valentine), this work would be like the difference between “Psychochandy” and “Automatic” ( The Jesus And Mary Chain) or a similar example in the career of, for example, Dinosaur Jr. So it’s a very slight disappointment.