No Age and their chaos live in Chicago (11/21)

I was doing drugs in my dorm room back in college with my buddy Tony — and I’m only saying this because there’s an important story that I remembered right as No Age began their set — and we were sitting on my dorm room floor and he was drawing things and I was taking papers from this accordion file I had and was crinkling them up and ripping them apart and throwing them around the room. Tony was puzzled (or, I don’t know, he was probably just high, but for the sake of the story…) and I told him “No, no. Things are better this way. I want to live like this, in a mess, with everything everywhere.”

All this came rushing back to me when the cover art to No Age’s latest LP, Everything In Between, was crudely animated on the ersatz projection screen behind the band (a white sheet). Before they even played a note, I realized what was so great about No Age that I couldn’t put my finger on before.

You know a show might get loud if a) the drum kit is front and center, b) the guitarist has four Marshall cabinets humming and ready to go, and c) there is a station for looping and sampling. Dean Allen Spunt, Randy Randall, and new member William Kai Stangeland-Menchaca respectively and authoritatively attack their instruments with fervor producing, in a word, volume. But as soon as the opening digital chug of “Life Prowler” thudded through the speakers, it became clear that No Age is more than noise and volume. It’s purposeful chaos enhancing the the normative order. Instead of a plain sheet of paper, No Age’s performance is a crumpled mess, full of nooks and crannies, and asymmetrical lines and shapes that were once a part of something ordinary.

Photo by Josh Darr

And but see the thing is they also throw down live with the best of ’em. At the all-ages show, a group of 30 or so kids banged and shoved their way through almost every song. “Fever Dreaming” brought about an  early climax but their most accomplished, multifaceted song of the show appeared with”Losing Feeling.”It married the DIY (or, “DITogether”, as Randy put it during the show) element of punk with all the wonderful dynamics of Galaxie 500, et al. It’s a sound cultivated on the EP of the same name that was eschewed for the most part on Everything In Between, but in a live setting, “Losing Feeling” is their crowning achievement.

I don’t usually mention this, but as No Age thrashed, psychedelic footage played in a variety of filters from negative x-ray, to thermal, to any other variety you can find on your Mac Photo Booth app. This was, for me, the tape that pieced together the punk and shoegaze and noise sound the band thrives in. Somehow, it all made sense with swirling colorful video of skateboarders crashing and the band performing in real time layered over a morphing pastel visualizer.

Photo by Josh Darr

If I fault No Age for one thing, it is the remarkable flatness of Stunt’s voice. It’s growing on me more and more as the band continues to carve out their sound, but his 20-cents-off-every-pitch singing doesn’t pack the same amount of force as the music does, so oftentimes it sounds bashful, hollow, and out of place. But it’s hard to fault him too much because he’s banging the piss out of his kit the whole time and that can’t lend itself to pitch-perfect crooning.

But like that crumbled piece of paper for their cover art, No Age forms new beauty out of active chaos. A guitar riff would bleed into a sample would bleed into a guitar riff and so on. Mini-sets of 4 or so songs each created clear arcs for their songs, and with over three albums of material to draw from, the band found an overreaching arc for the show which was refreshing to hear. Their mild mannered newer material (“Common Heat”) was balanced with Nouns face-melters (“Sleeper Hold”) and O.G. Weirdo Rippers stuff (“Boy Void”), the last of which transformed the place back to an LA punk club from the 80’s, if only for a brief 2:08 minutes.

Back to the cover art again. The image on the screen looked like an animated gif, like the paper is trying to sputter open and fold out to its original form, but then it would crinkle down again. That’s what’s so good about No Age: they breathe life into something most people would regard as garbage. It’s time-honored and -tested with noise rock bands, but thankfully No Age continues to mold and shape their sound for today’s scene. Instead of a wood lathe and polish, the boys hack away at their instruments, and hurl the music against walls until it looks like something they might call comfortable — exactly the way it should be.

Photography by Josh Darr.

No Age setlist:
Life Prowler
Teen Creeps
You’re A Target
Every Artist Needs a Tragedy
Fever Dreaming
Common Heat
Losing Feeling
Valley Hump Crash
Chem Trails
Sleeper Hold
Shed and Transcend
Boy Void
[I think a cover]


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