LA duo put the Kings Of Leon T-shirt incident behind them and go back to basics on enjoyably difficult third album
LA’s No Age have always been a curious proposition. Half punk band, half art project, the music they make treads a fine line between chin-stroking cleverness and headbanging rock. It made them a popular scene band, if not a particularly big one, and around the release of last album ‘Everything In Between’ in 2010 they were better known for their band T-shirts than their music. They were trendy. Too trendy. It wasn’t their fault, and bassist Randy Randall and drummer and vocalist Dean Allen Spunt got paranoid about it, even accusing Kings Of Leon of ripping off the basic block-capital logo design on their tees – the one that looks like it was made in Windows 3.1. They drew attention for the wrong reasons. The world knew about the duo, but very few people had bothered listening to their records.
Skip forward three years, and the duo are back with ‘An Object’, an attempt at going back to their DIY roots. “I want to make a record and manufacture the cover, manufacture the label, manufacture the vinyl,” said Spunt, discussing the album in an interview with Spin.
So he and Randall have taken it upon themselves to design and assemble each and every one of the 10,000 CD and vinyl copies of this release – hence the record’s title. Their concern for the physicality of music on ‘An Object’ extends to the production, which is so stripped back they could be playing in the same room as you. On ‘Running From A-Go-Go’ – a warm, meandering ode to touring – accidental sounds from the recording process drift in and out. On ‘Defector/ed’ you can practically hear Randall’s bass amp overheating. The whole album has a deeply percussive and acoustic feel, which allows for some fuzzy sonic experimentation to creep in without it turning into a My Bloody Valentine tribute.
The overall mood is more introspective than the band’s 2008 debut ‘Nouns’ and ‘Everything In Between’. But it does retain some of the band’s hardcore flourishes, mostly through flashes of lyrical anguish. “Does anybody care?” moans Spunt on opener ‘No Ground’. “Show me some decency!” he demands on the following track, ‘I Won’t Be Your Generator’, both of which flow with a kind of Ramones-meets-Beach Boys refrain rather than the aggression of an adolescent tantrum. Elsewhere, parts of the record are just gloriously spaced out. Faster numbers ‘C’mon Stimmung’ and ‘Lock Box’ have melodies so warped they sound as though they’ve been fed through a wind tunnel, and ambient closer ‘Commerce, Comment, Commence’ verges on krautrock.
Which leads us to the key question: is it as good as their previous stuff? Answer: just about. It’s a difficult album and requires repeated listening for some of the subtler parts to sink in. And it almost certainly won’t make the duo their fortune. But then again, they clearly don’t give a toss about that sort of thing.