When Nouns, the debut album proper from LA duo No Age, was released in 2008 it was greeted with plenty of acclaim, but also some pockets of dissent. In comparison to the early singles and tracks collected on 2007 compilation Weirdo Rippers, the sound and aesthetic of Nouns seemed slightly compromised. The scuzz and distortion that characterised their earlier material had been smoothed out somewhat – this in itself was not necessarily a bad thing, and they could still bring the noise in style on tracks like ‘Eraser’ and ‘Miner’. However, much of it seemed a tad predictable and straightforward: competent junior-Dinosaur riffing and trashing that tended not to live long in the memory. Furthermore, where Weirdo Rippers had exhibited a perfect balance between invigorating garage-rock and gorgeous, hazy ambience – often within the same track – Nouns’ attempt to reconcile both approaches was just a bit too neat and tidy at times.
With new album Everything In Between, there are no such complaints. The seamless blend of sample-based shoegaze atmospherics and stirring noise-rock that first marked No Age out has returned, and the duo sound more vibrant than ever. Lead single ‘Glitter’ indicated as much: it’s essentially a bouncy garage-rock number at heart, but it’s got an airy, floating quality, with screeching guitar feedback and a woozy, off-balance rhythm. The record thrives on this sense of contrast, and while individual tracks differ – some flat-out rock while others are instrumental mood-setters – it does feel like one cohesive flow of sound.
Tracks like ‘Depletion’ and ‘Shred and Transcend’ see No Age at their most feral; formidable punk thrashers that avoid the overly clean edges that marred Nouns. Other tracks, like ‘Positive Amputation’ and ‘Katerpillar’, are all about atmosphere and sound, thriving on guitar texture and hypnotic loops. Others still, such as ‘Common Heat’ and ‘Valley Hump Crash’, are breezy lo-fi affairs with delightful pop hooks. In other words, this album encompasses pretty much everything that’s great about the duo. Rounding it all off, the superb ‘Chem Trails’ makes for the most triumphant of closing tracks, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall sharing vocals as they ride a wave of soaring, distorted guitars to the finish.
With their DIY ethic and commitment to LA’s underground musical community, No Age are the kind of band you can’t help but root for. But even leaving aside such credentials, Everything In Between is simply a thrilling record in its own right, and one where you can tell the creators had a blast making it. A cert for the end-of-year lists.