No Age: An object (Sub Pop, 2013)

Si la música de No Age es normalmente difícil de clasificar o de encasillar, con su último trabajo, titulado An object, el dúo se ha empeñado en hacernos las cosas más difíciles. Si habitualmente sus tiros iban dirigidos hacia un proto-punk bastante uctivo, en este último trabajo, se han empeñado en deconstruir aún más su música, llevándola hasta extremos demasiado radicalizados.
Algunos lo llamarán seguramente Pop avanzado, otros sencillamente, y me duele decirlo, tedio. Porque no encuentro ningún motivo para la ilusión o para el mero entretenimiento o escapismo en este disco atinadamente titulado An object. Una colección de temas decididamente desnudados de cualquier artificio y construcción estructural más o menos acorde con el mundo del Pop más convencional.
Como dije antes, algunos lo llamarán Pop experimental Pop avanzado. A mí no me emociona en absoluto.


An Object consists of potential rock songs denied everything they need to actually rock. The minimalism doesn’t make for a fighting trim No Age– they sound emaciated, subject to a crash diet equally fueled by asceticism and stubbornness. None of which is helped by the clammy production, which casts a green-grey, sickly pallor over An Object rather than clarity. On past records, Spunt’s rigid vocals could most kindly be described as “effective in context,” but freed from the obligations of beating the shit out of his drums, he shrinks in the spotlight. There aren’t vocal melodies on An Object, so much as 11 iterations of one note being budged until it moves in the slightest one way or the other. Meanwhile, Randall forgoes riffs for granular, ephemeral textures and rather than building tension through restraint, the lack of rhythmic, tonal or melodic variation causes the album’s midsection to drone more than their past work which intended to be drone music.
No Age attempt to compensate by making An Object their most lyrically direct album, and at the outset, most of Spunt’s words are pointed towards “you.” You know who “you” are– “Who do you think you are/ trying so hard/ to make that stage/ but it’s not made that way,” “When I see you/ underneath your lies,” “You’re a broken leg/ a knife with no blade.” It’s “us vs. the man, maaaan” boilerplate for sure, though the generality can work in the favor of a band that’s always had a cause but not much of a rallying cry. When Spunt sings “I won’t be your generator/ you get no power from me,” odds are it’s a bird flip to corporations who co-opt underground art, gentrify scenes, and buy out idealism, or whatever. But if you don’t know the first thing about No Age’s extracurriculars, “I Won’t Be Your Generator” is a multi-purpose rager at parents, bosses, boyfriends, girlfriends, whatever’s harshing your buzz. Much like ditching the drums, it’s an obdurate artistic move that’s effective three minutes at a time. But when a band that’s taken up the role of indie’s moral compass gets stuck in the same black and white thinking on “No Ground” and “C’mon, Stimmung”, the pervasive “you” becomes a strawman version of actual No Age enemies like Kings of Leon and Walmart— certainly worthy of derision, but too big to bother fighting back in a way that might put those principles to the test.
As An Object trudges forward, a strange and welcome change slowly occurs; you can sense No Age growing fatigued enough to let their guard down. After spending the first half of An Object raging against shadowy power brokers, they’ve retained their autonomy only to find out they can’t outrun their own shadows. “Running From A-Go-Go” is the first point where the drab tone matches the mood; when Spunt complains about “bullshit on the stereo,” he’s probably not taking shots at Imagine Dragons or Macklemore or anyone else specific. It’s just a mundane acknowledgement of a touring musician’s crippling boredom, abject, incapacitating loneliness and how inadequate the moral high ground from earlier can be against emotional encroachment–  “There’s no escaping when it pays your way/ I tell myself it’s one more day/ and one more night alone again” (Pitchfork)

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