No Age – Snares Like a Haircut
A quick, understated collection of pop songs, the latest No Age album Snares Like a Haircut is inventive without deviating from the band’s formula
Given the recent resurgence of shoegaze and sorta-emo rock, the tendency towards noise and brevity that once set No Age apart seems like a normalising exercise. Constantly threatened by a dominating barrage of amplified feedback, new age overtones, and quick, attention-deficient songs, Snares Like a Haircut wins by being a deceptively catchy album. There’s mosh pit hooks on Secret Swamp and Soft Collar Fad, and more experimental pop in the Sonic Youth vein on Stuck in the Changer and Primitive Plus. Drummer Dean Allen’s vocals seem like an afterthought though – monotonous and low in the mix, they add little presence to the album.
Everything about No Age screams Los Angeles. In song titles like Soft Collar Fad and Third Grade Rave, they leave tongue-in-cheek references to the clash of civilizations that is LA’s thriving underground and Hollywood overground. They say “stoked” a lot in interviews and casually reference “warehouse spaces” and diversified interests in sci-fi literature. They’re self-aware of their role as producers and consumers in a capitalist environment, but the band is unapologetically committed to a DIY ethos that is probably lost on fully digital natives.
They print their own t-shirts, run their own Twitter account, and manufactured 10,000 copies of their 2013 release An Object by themselves (backed by Sub Pop, no less!). An Object toned back the loud squall that defined their early work on Nouns, but Snares Like a Haircut brings noise back the emotional forefront, along with some new tricks, like clipped drum loops on Squashed and layers of saxophone battling against Allen’s jackhammer drums on Third Grade Rave.
The band enter an extended passage of miasmic noodling and electric feedback looping on the serene Send Me, which continues into the title track and forms a bridge before taking off at top speed on Tidal, like a pair of fairtrade cold brew-drinking adrenaline junkies behind the wheel of a model S. The sonic drama culminates in the room-filling Primitive Plus, with no chord progressions to get in the way of the expanding drones. It all sounds like smog and wildfire, concrete and faux leather, gilded by the rosy sheen of the California sun.
It’s interesting that No Age’s output has slowed recently. For a band that emphasises live performances so much, they could fully commit to the data age and capitalise on large archives of live material the way Pearl Jam and Sunn O))) do. With that in mind, Snares seems like a long EP – one that ends before it really gets going.
Listen to: Send Me, Secret Swamp