New in music

Peter Boyle

The term “the LA scene” may at first call to mind a washed-up demographic – a musical climate where hair metal’s glitzy squalor still thrives, or where hopefuls compete unsuccessfully against lazy actors with awful musical projects. Yet Los Angeles has been home of late to excellent independent acts: HEALTH, The Mae Shi, Abe Vigoda, Bethany Cosentino’s early group Pocahaunted and the defunct Mika Miko all emerged from Los Angeles and acted as parts of the network of bands centered around the all-ages multimedia venue, The Smell.
This culture surrounding The Smell also fostered the growth of No Age, a band that gained prominence after the release of their 2007 singles compilation “Weirdo Rippers.” That album’s title was an apt descriptor of the band’s sound; the raucous experimental punk was full of more youthful energy and genre-collapsing noise than nearly any punk rock record of that year. Proving their spastic sound translated to a full-length with 2008’s “Nouns,” No Age gained depth and maturity without losing their initial exuberance.
The band’s follow-up LP to “Nouns,” titled “Everything in Between,” extends that depth even further. Coming off of last year’s “Losing Feeling” EP, which consisted of two sonic experiments bookended with more “traditional” No Age jams, the band learned the benefit of occasionally removing the jagged edge of their sound.
“Everything in Between” opens with “Life Prowler,” which features an ominous drumbeat that quickly eases in with layers of nearly clean electric guitar. The alliteratively named guitar player Randy Randall seems to have reached a point where a bold sound means minimizing fuzz. Aside from one buzz-saw guitar track, “Life Prowler” sounds far more similar to other bands’ studio sound. This cleaned up sound is an interesting step for a group whose allure is often otherness.
“Glitter” follows with more familiar distorted territory for the band and nails-on-chalkboard guitars, but with a solid basis in a clap-along drum track and a keyboard riff that melts into the rhythm guitar. It’s a sort of yearning-anthem-meets-drug-freakout: Singer/drummer Dean Spunt isn’t exactly clear about what he wants “back underneath [his] skin,” after all.
In another universe, “Fever Dreaming” might, have been a Ramones B-side featuring heavy machinery; “Common Heat” brings the acoustic and maracas along for the ride; “Valley Hump Crush” sounds very nearly like the kind of thing you’d hear on the beach at night, complete with ebbing and flowing hiss. Even a little piano shows up on “Positive Amputations.”
These songs do show the band’s additions to their tumultuous repertoire, and could bring “Everything in Between” to a best-of-2010 level in a year when cacophony made a big comeback.
Unfortunately, a good portion of this album is simply boring. While not bad noise in any way, “Skinned,” “Katerpillar,” “Sorts” and “Dusted” sound so similar that most listeners will not notice the difference between them. The standard No Age material on this record is maybe not as strong as the deeper cuts on “Nouns,” but since the cleaner sounding material seems to be getting mined for singles, that may be an irrelevant concern. To put it bluntly, if skipping songs is not forbidden on your iPod, this record does improve drastically.
To some extent, No Age has grown up and internalized more innovative sounds into their style. “Everything in Between” does pick up a morsel nearly every sub-genre of indie rock today. Unfortunately, everything in between those best new tracks may induce yawns in those expecting punk-rock fury. For best results, leave it on in the background. These zany vegans will make you perk up when it’s worth it, for sure.