Everything in Between
(Sub Pop; 2010)
By Andrew Hall | 1 November 2010
Something changed within No Age. Following several records described by our Alan Baban as being hindered by their “unilateral and slightly prudish use of noise as nothing but noise,” they released an EP late last year, Losing Feeling, which saw their sound undergo an almost 180. All of a sudden the band was using texture as more than just texture and there were songs to anchor it, with “You’re a Target” and the title track offering what we all hoped was a sign of good things to come.
My personal stance on No Age was always easily summarized by the end of Alan’s Losing Feeling review: “Watch this space?” I liked parts of Nouns (2008) and Weirdo Rippers (2007), and was certain that there was something underneath that paste of relentless treble. That EP and seeing the band earlier this year—an experience in which earplugs are utterly necessary both to bring the volume down to manageable levels but also because so much happens beneath their wall of noise that it’s a revelation when one understands just how deliberate their mix is—made me more than excited for where the band was headed next.
Everything in Between is the sound not just of potential realized, but of expectations exceeded. No Age’s music is still immediately hooky, but the noise now serves the most concise, accessible, and enjoyable pop songs they’ve ever written. Rather than focusing on an all-out assault at zero fidelity and 110 decibels, the band gives their mixes room to breathe and crafts a sound in which everything doesn’t have to hit all at once yet still sets things on fire. Dean Spunt’s melodies come through on the first or second listen, not the fiftieth, and Randy Randall diversifies his guitar playing enough that the band’s interest in drones and ambience no longer feels tacked on—evoking the aesthetics of 4AD production more than Tim Hecker on no budget and without a computer.
No Age communicate this within the album’s first few seconds, as “Life Prowler” begins with the sound of Spunt’s toms being pounded relentlessly (and, for the first time, there’s real, audible low end in this band), Randall’s guitar lines weaving in and out of each other, and Joy Division-esque synthesizers capping the end of individual bars. Any fears of the record sacrificing what made Nouns‘ best moments work should be allayed by “Fever Dreaming,” an all-consuming racket as explosive as the band’s catalog highlights but one with better melodic turns, a killer chorus, and so much more sonic detail that it practically trounces half the songs this band has written.
Everything diversifies further as it progresses. On “Glitter,” Spunt’s vocals are mixed so up front that it screams “this is the single.” “Valley Hump Crash” evokes mid-eighties indie pop in its jangling first half, then Spunt delivers an absolutely killer melody that drives it to its finish. “Common Heat” puts an acoustic rhythm guitar and Spunt’s vocals at the very forefront atop one-note leads and cavernous, screeching reverb,
Throughout all of this, Spunt’s lyrics (unlike his melodies, which are now utterly vital, kind of ugly, and kind of gorgeous) aren’t necessarily key to any song, but they continue the general trends of anxiousness and unease that held together the few intelligible moments of Nouns. “Chem Trails” even closes the album with Spunt and Randall passing lines back and forth and the line “I want to steal everything from you,” driving home the point that this is a clear collaboration between two people, one that feels more collaborative than ever before.
In summary: continue to watch this space. But listen, too. This band has finally made something as good as everyone says it is.