Dean Spunt, one half of Los Angeles-based duo No Age, once described his band’s M.O. as such: “Bands should be fun and exciting and they should push all the buttons at the same time. They should make you feel like you are going to explode and make you utterly confused and inspired at the same time.” In the group’s relatively short existence (or is a half-decade like a generation in Internet years?), it has adhered to this mission statement the modern way: by “diversifying its portfolio.” They released two albums, designed and branded an image (famously promoted through a T-shirt worn by a member of Radiohead) and aligned itself with the disparate worlds of skateboarding and politics. So, when Spunt describes the band as, well, “a band,” he means that in the most contemporary sense of the word.
No Age is a phenomenon, and a successful one at that. They have the credentials by virtue of being born in the revitalized Downtown Los Angeles arts scene. They also have mainstream clout having earned a Grammy nomination (granted, it was for album-package design, but still a noteworthy box to tick off the bucket list, for some). So, the difficulty of being such a moderately successful band in these days is how to keep up. Another album is no longer a given, but rather something taken for granted. What fans need now is another experience.
No Age’s third effort is a relative surprise. Everything in Between is actually just an album. Simple black-and-white cover. No accompanying book of photos, like 2008’s Nouns. No coinciding videos with interlinked narratives (or at least none so far). Just a hair less than 40 minutes of energetic music. Which is a welcome change by today’s standards — to simply appreciate some music by itself.
Fans will be happy to hear the group’s key ingredients still in place: fast hooks and distorted fuzz. The album’s first half breezes from the pounding thud of “Life Prowler” to the go-go romp of “Glitter” to the breakneck “Fever Dreaming.” “Common Heat” finally slows the album about a third of the way through with its spare, K Records-reminiscent feel. Randy Randall’s guitar smog in the mid-album pause “Katerpillar” gradually shift the focus away from brisk rhythms and big melodies toward all-encompassing atmospherics.
So, what’s the big change? The party line says there has been a natural progression: “leap forward“; “mature“; “better.” Aside from these familiar, post-sophomore superlatives, Everything in Between‘s other most notable quality is its industrial texture. Guitars alternately ring or buzz throughout “Glitter” and “Dusted.” The swooshing whale tank of atmospherics throughout Nouns have been replaced with layers of cold chain-mail — “Positive Amputation” still wraps around the listener, but the feel is hard and metallic. In truth, little else is different. However, for a band with so much on its plate, it’s a welcome change to hear nothing more than a quick, burst of energy.