Some bands will forever remain inextricably linked to a time and place, for example: Joy Division and late-‘70s Manchester, Mac Dre and late-‘90s Northern California and The Strokes and early-2000s New York all leap to mind. No Age is, without a doubt, one of those bands.
Having defined what it means to live as a certain type of Los Angeleño for the later part of the past decade (the title of their first album is visible on the street side of The Smell for chrissakes), No Age turns introspective on Everything in Between, the band’s third studio album. Along with it’s intense temporal-spatial linkage, No Age has a clear idea of what a No Age song is supposed to sound like. Rather than following down The Strokes’ ouroboristic path and copy-pasting their second proper album as a sort of Frankensteinian graft onto the first, No Age develops it’s sound by deepening and broadening it through intense introspection.
Everything in Between shows No Age as a grown-up band that knows what it needs to do and executes it nearly flawlessly. Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but this is an album that delivers exactly on expectations — with a twist. Harold Bloom said the mark of all great literature is that it follows its predecessors to a point, then undergoes a clinamen, or swerve, and thereby becomes a piece of art in its own right. Not to get all nerdy on you (too late, I know), but that’s exactly what Everything in Between represents.
Unlike Nouns, the duo’s first proper studio LP (Weirdo Rippers was a collection of the early singles), No Age actually allows songs to breathe on Everything in Between.
While it’s true that in some cases the songs rip into the no-holds-barred thrashouts that characterize not only their first two LPs but also their beyond-electric live show, there are examples of (dare I say it? Dare! Dare!) restraint on the album. “Sorts” and “Dusted” float along much like “My Life’s Alright Without You” or “Miner;” they don’t devolve into all-out moshing like their predecessors. There might be a problem there for some people; No Age grew up and grew popular as a concert band for sweaty, skinny people to throw themselves at each other, and this whole “restraint” thing might lend it more to unsweaty skinny people sitting quietly smoking marijuana. But I say that’s a good thing — Dean Spunt and Randy Randall aren’t 15 anymore, and they’re acting like the adults that they are.
Now, I’ve been talking a lot about restraint, but there are also some bona fide rockers on the album. “Life Prowler” is almost certain to inspire a furious sing-and-dance-along and I would be stunned if “Glitter” didn’t appear in every one of their sets. “Depletion” is the highlight of the album, somehow managing to integrate Pixies-esque loudQUIETloud construction without ever turning down the volume on what is undeniably a song meant to please those that the second half of the album will leave feeling bored. Even these tracks, though, reach out for something more than those on previous albums. Rather than the balls-out intensity of “Teen Creeps,” the single-type numbers have an ethereal quality missing from their earlier work. Randall’s guitar still has the same distortion and ethereal quality, but now fades in and out around his voice and Spunt’s drums, gently urging the songs towards their conclusion rather than taking the “well I do believe that 30 seconds of quiet is enough for everyone” approach that dominated and defined Weirdo Rippers and Nouns.
“Fever Dreaming” comes the closest to sounding like a “vintage” No Age song, and also comes the closest to sounding out of place on the album. Randall’s guitar bounds and Spunt’s drums sound like they’ve just been let out of Turkish prison, so exuberant are the combination. I’m getting kind of sweaty just thinking about it. But, in keeping with the rest of the album, it ends with a dreamlike evocation of… what, exactly? It sounds almost like coming out of a fever, or maybe diving deeper into the dream. Either way, I’m happy.