On 2010’s Everything In Between, No Age cleaned up its sound just enough to bring its melodies to the forefront, creating a thrilling contrast of tuneful riffs and surging dissonance—and resulting in one of the best noise-pop records in recent memory. On the follow-up, An Object, drummer/vocalist Dean Allen Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall continue exploring new song structures and instrumentation, but their interest in refinement appears to have been short-lived. With a minimalistic production approach and a more relaxed tone, it’s an album defined by simplicity and restraint; by retreating from both aggressively cacophonic clamor and catchy hooks, however, An Object weakens the dichotomy that makes No Age’s music a compelling standout in the genre.
For the most part, the record isn’t a dramatic departure from the progression of the group’s previous three albums, lacing crunchy garage-grunge guitars with angular post-punk rhythms and weaving in dense clouds of harsh and hazy din. With a few exceptions—including the frenetic “Circling With Dizzy,” paced with thudding feedback effects, and the slick, alt-rock-tinged “Lock Box”—the duo generally ticks the tempo down a notch, preferring to let guitars drone rather than detonate. Sometimes, as in closer “Commerce, Comment, Commence,” this takes the form of ominously calm shoegaze soundscapes; at other times, as in “A Ceiling Dreams Of A Floor,” the layered clatter provides a slow-building foundation for eventual interplay of guitar and keyboard lines.
An Object is never too jarring, nor too abrasive, nor too sedate, nor too conventional. But No Age’s best work is rapid-fire indulgence in all of these excesses, riveting in its erratic unpredictability and sense of urgency. Dealing in such well-tread punk-art themes as social restlessness, political unease, and the cynicism of stability and complacency, An Object’s dark lyrics agitate for independent thinking and a refusal to compromise. How odd, then, that the record’s music seems to be slowly taking the band to a happy medium.