I own No Age shoes. I mean, if I’m going to tell you that No Age has crafted one of the best albums of the year and somehow managed to follow up Nouns with an album that begs for you to try to disregard it but only because it wants to break down your walls slowly, ultimately standing over you in victory with its foot resting on your chest, well then, you should know that I already have an inclination for this band. They are the hometown boys, though I got on board later in the game after seeing them open (and kill it) at a show with Liars during the Weirdo Rippers days. Chemistry and intensity are words that ring true in memory. There was also the geeky-fun element of watching guitarist Randy Randall experiment with the looping that has become the band’s third member and an invaluable live tool.
Looping is not a new technique. I mean, hip-hop and electronic music are based on it. But No Age’s application of it has been provocative because it supports their DIY approach, and you can actually see Randall create the parts that will be looped in later. Plus, they are a two-piece and would run the risk of sounding thin without it. And while looping has always been involved in their recording, Everything In Between shows them figuring out how to use it as a trump card. “Life Prowler” opens the album with a demonstration of its possibilities within the context of their sound. First the gentle-sounding picking of the intro, then the hard lead riff 0ver it, then the spooky ghost sounds that make me think my phone is ringing, and finally, in the chorus, the strumming to fill out the sound. Four parts, played like a math equation. Honestly, it places No Age near the word “beauty” for the first time in their career.
And it’s a place in which No age doesn’t necessarily feel uncomfortable. Even with Randall creating noise that sounds like chalkboard scratching on “Glitter”, the underlying, almost new wave-sounding guitar riff and Dean Spunt’s ear-worm of a chorus make it an anthem. The song has hand-claps, for god’s sake. But again in the combination of everything, there is actual beauty. Not to mention Spunt’s lyrics have turned a major corner and actually become memorable with spare lines of longing like “You feel like everybody is out to get you again/I want you back underneath my skin” and the opener’s words that play like a thesis statement, “One time is all I need/to know my job’s complete.” A bold statement, but as far as their music career has gone so far, it’s 100% true.
The album is stacked and full of highlights. “Skinned” plays like stream of consciousness loss of love, ultimately disintegrating in noise and “la la la without you,” erasing the details and boiling the song down to the root. “Common Heat”, maybe No Age’s first relaxing track, paints the portrait of a man on the edge and out of control to the point where there is real danger in the line “everyone around me knows I’m in trouble.” Not until seven songs in do they begin the experimental, ambient tunes that have been prevalent in their previous work, whether it’s 30 seconds at the end of a song or a complete track of spacey noise. But marrying punk songs with melodic roots and the desire to push their sound into new territory, well, that has seemed like the end goal they were searching for on previous releases.
But from the ghostly ringing mentioned from the opening track to the entire mid-album cut, “Sorts”, No Age seems to have fully realized their sound on Everything In Between. “Sorts” particularly begins like a chaotic noise experiment, but instead of the melody becoming just another ingredient in the mix, it works as a binding agent, holding the dough of the song together. And the best trick is saved for the end, when No Age seems to be taking the wind out of their own sails by throwing on two texture creators (“Dusted” and “Positive Amputation”) consecutively, causing the listener to wonder if the opening 2/3 of the album, with its consistent accessibility, was simply not maintainable for the entire work. This concern, thankfully, is put to rest with the barnstorming “Shred and Transcend”, which still gives the listener a minute and a half to contemplate if this is going to be a third straight instrumental. The song shows the band at their most energetic, a side that suits them and would have provided a fine end to the record. “Chem Trails”, while a great song, fits more with the first half of the record and seems a little out of place as a closer, especially with the three songs ahead of it seeming to be in dialogue with each other.
But this is a minor complaint on an album where minor complaints seem like the only kind possible. Some people may not like the instrumental songs or complain about Spunt’s two-gear voice, but these complaints are more about No Age as a whole and are part of the contract when engaging with the band. Within the parameters that they have created for themselves, Everything In Between is a complete success, containing surprises while improving upon the territory covered in past recordings. As only their second record (I don’t count Weirdo Rippers), it still feels like something better is around the corner and that the perfection of their sound is a mere stepping stone to something that no one sees coming. Because despite the difficulty in imagining the band making a better record at this point in their career, Everything In Between doesn’t blow the listener away and, in fact, takes five or six listens to really work its way into the consciousness. Their working-class aesthetic may prevent them from ever releasing an album that can do that, though. And if this ends up being No Age’s masterpiece and a statement about who they are as a band, well, there will be no shame in that.