No Age

Everything in Between

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On its third album, Everything in Between, the L.A. noise pop duo No Age doesn't do anything it hasn't done before. As in the past, it balances noise and melody, distance and feeling, lo-fi and high art like vaudeville plate spinners, keeping each plate oscillating wildly but completely in control. As before, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall create a small world of sound out of just drums and guitar that Spunt’s heartfelt vocals ride like a particularly nimble skate kid. The only thing that’s changed is that they have a firmer grip on dynamics and a slightly cleaner sound. Not enough so that it matters, but enough to make the truly scathing moments stand out even more. A song like the surging "Fever Dreaming" almost sounds radio-friendly until the screeching guitars come swooping in. "Chem Trails" is the group’s poppiest moment ever and is enhanced by the swirling guitar duels that fill up the mix. The guitars at times sound huger than ever; Randall’s tone is monstrous on "Depletion." It’s really not that different than the formula used on Nouns, just a little more refined. The same desperate and serious lyrical tone carries over, too, and Spunt sounds like every song is being torn from his diary, that every word he sings matters deeply. It’s an approach that sets them apart from the often ironic or blasé noise poppers of the past they emulate (Eric’s Trip, the Flying Nun roster, Sonic Youth) and it helps make the record more than just loud, impressively noisy background music. The quiet, almost relaxed ballad "Common Heat" and the long piano/feedback soundscape "Positive Amputation" help with this, too, giving the record the kind of dimension and depth too many noisy bands don’t bother with. No Age's brief moment of near-mainstream notoriety may have passed by the time Everything in Between was released, but their growth as recording artists was progressing nicely and the album stands alongside Nouns as two of the finest noise rock/pop albums of the new millennium.

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