It’s So Obvious: No Age

I went out to mingle w/ the kiddies again at the No Age show at the all-ages teenage club that is, coincidentally, immediately next door to my kids’ school.

I really like No Age.  There’s a purity and directness to them, and also a kind of opacity.  The music seems simple and the influences fairly obvious — e.g. the Ramones & 1980s hardcore — but there’s something in it that remains unexplained or surprising.  I suppose it’s partly the way the sheerly assaultive noise combines with the underlying pretty melodies — it almost reminds me of My Bloody Valentine.  There’s also something intriguing in the sense of political commitment, the veganism and the veneration for the Black Flag/ SST era communitarian approach to punk (they’re named after a 1987 SST instrumental compilation featuring Black Flag and others), and yet the politics don’t translate in any direct way to the lyrics.  They seem to draw on skater culture too which comes out partly in a sense of headlong physical abandon in the performance (which you don’t get in a lot of arch/withholding contemporary indie rock).

The chorus of “Boy Void” is lifted straight from Wire, I think: “it’s so obvious, so obvious, so obvious.”  I have no idea what the song is about or what is “obvious,” unless it’s actually a song about abstraction and about the perception of abstractions (like noise, color, forms): “Why don’t you try these fields across my eye…”

All of No Age’s music is pretty “obvious” in certain ways (a few chords, a wall of noise, tunes you can hum to) but there’s a conceptual heft to the aesthetics (all the way down to the simple and memorable t-shirts: I almost broke my longstanding taboo on rock t’s, but they didn’t have the one I wanted in the right size)  (and no, it’s not that I’m too fat for the teenage/kiddie shirts, as Sarah assumed when I mentioned this; they only had extra large and I wanted large).

They know how to deploy “minimalist” effects in resonant ways; they’re involved in the L.A. art scene so my guess is that they have a well-informed historical sense for how minimalist aesthetics work.

Ed and I got there and found out they might not go on until 10:45, so we wandered up the street to get a beer at the Bishop where a band called the California Guitar Trio were playing.  Tickets were $20 but someone offered us a pair for free so we caught the last 10 minutes — kind of a virtuoso classical-guitar/jazz thing.  They ended with the William Tell Overture.  Then back to the club where No Age went on by 10:30.  They did not play any t.v. theme songs.  We left early — it was a school night and we were both tired, but they were really great.  Good vegans that they are, they gave a shout-out to Bloominfoods: praised the balsamic-vinegar brussels sprouts in the cold bar.

Also need to mention: singing drummer.  Unusual.

I guess they’re opening for Pavement at the Hollywood Bowl on September 30th — funny to play at Rhino’s to about 125 people, and the Hollywood Bowl to 17,000 (?) in the same two weeks.  New album is out — just heard a somewhat disappointed report about it, so we’ll see.

Wait, they were nominated for a Grammy?  I missed that…

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