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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Age, No Context @ the Showbox

posted by on January 30 at 16:05 PM

IMG_9134.jpgRandy Randall photo by Morgan Keuler

What most struck me about No Age last night at the Showbox was how important that band’s context is to what they do. No Age come from the much-loved and much-hyped all-ages scene built around LA’s the Smell, and it’s almost impossible to think or read about one of those things (the Smell, No Age) without the other. The album art for their debut, Weirdo Rippers, featured one photograph of the Smell with the band’s name and album title pained on its face (it might still be there) and another that looks like a class photo of the current LA punk scene. There might not be any other band right now for whom a sense of place is so important. (At least, that’s how it seems to someone who’s never been to said place.)

Listening to Weirdo Rippers, I have a hard time hearing what all the buzz is about. There’s some great moments, sure, but there’s also a lot of lo-fi fuzzing around and pedal prog goofs. As Brandon Ivers pointed out in this review, the record flicks on and off like a light, from noise to pop punk, and it’s sometimes jarring (go to a light switch and start flicking it on and off as fast as you can—it’s kind of like that). Live, though, the band surfed, 2-chord pop punk hooks emerging form the noise builds as on cresting waves, riding out and exhausting themselves, then starting again.

IMG_9396.jpgDean Spunt photo by Morgan Keuler

But even if the songs made more sense live, there was still something missing, something that doesn’t translate so well from the Smell or the Punkin’ House (where I once saw Spunt’s old band, Wives) to the Showbox. At some point, someone in the crowd must’ve shouted out something about the Smell, because singer/drummer Dean Spunt replied, “Yeah, I smell. I smell big time,” before speaking sincerely about the band’s creative home: “The Smell is the nicest place in the world, actually. I’m not kidding.”

Presumably, part of the Smell’s charm is a wild and devoted hometown crowd. After the Seattle crowd’s anemic response to another song and Spunt’s asking, “You stoked or what?” Spunt sincerely whined, “C’monnnnn, come onnnnn,” before launching into “Everybody’s Down,” an anthem that aims to make No Age’s scene universal with its chorus of “Everybody’s down/ Every soul in every town.” As a looped drone played out from his pedals, guitarist Randy Randall hopped on top of his amps and clutched his guitar in one hand while Spunt stepped away from his kit to sing. When Spunt pounded back into his drums and Randall leaped down and into a guitar riff, maybe a half dozen people in the middle of the crowd truly lost their shit. It was the high point of the set. At the Smell, I bet that moment looks like armageddon.

Liars were kind of a drag compared to past shows, mostly due to an injured, chair-bound Angus Andrew, whose hulking stage presence and wild fits usually animate the band’s drones. (I bet wherever I saw that puff of smoke coming from at the start of their set still dug it, though). Past Lives I’ll get to in a minute, but for now let me say that they may have been the best performance of the night, a little nervous but full of electricity and promise. Here’s hoping they’re playing again soon.

RSS icon Comments


Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Eric. It boggles my mind that Pitchfork and the lot love No Age. They remind me of Lightning Bolt -- an integral part of a certain noise scene, but really tedious on their own. How much money do you think Sup Pop is stupid enough to sink into this band?

Posted by dreamboatcaptain | January 30, 2008 5:06 PM

Fuck, that's the part I forgot to put in my review. Thanks, dreamboatcaptain.

I think No Age and Lightning Bolt make for an interesting comparison because I think Lightning Bolt's steez actually translates a lot better out of its original context than does No Age's. And mostly that's due to the sheer, overwhelming force of LB's amps. Brian Gibson once said something about how any stupid riff would sound like gold out of his amp and pedal setup, and though I think his riffs are pretty kick-ass, he has a good point. No Age don't have quite that kind of a rig as of yet.

And don't even get me freakin' on Dan Deacon.

Posted by Eric Grandy | January 30, 2008 5:29 PM

At least when Sub Pop put out a Wolf Eyes record, they knew it was going to tank -- it was just about proving they were still punk as fuck even with the Postal Service and The Shins on their roster. No Age, though... what's the point? Supporting a scene? Aren't there smaller labels in LA for that sort of thing?

Totally agree with the Dan Deacon thing. He's latched onto Girl Talk and all the right people back east, and No Age is latched onto all the right West Coast people.

Past Lives were awesome last night, they stole the show. Devin's probably the best (or most interesting, at least) guitarist in town. Have to agree with you about Past Lives taking the better half of the Blood Bros over Jaguar Love.

Posted by dreamboatcaptain | January 30, 2008 5:56 PM

here is an interesting link

Posted by charizard | January 31, 2008 1:04 AM

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