Photo credit: No Age
When you do a little digging into the roots of punk, you’ll find a strange intersection of art and dumb rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of the originators did stints in art school, and from Malcolm McLaren’s sartorial, situationist provocations to the late, great artist Arturo Vega’s influence on The Ramones, you’ll find that art is just as important to punk as the music. One group that lives punk’s arty history to its core is the Los Angeles duo No Age. They combine the best bits of lo-fi, DIY hardcore, ambiant noise and clangorous pop for a sound that’s as kinetic as it is inventive and provocative.
Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer-slash-singer Dean Allen Spunt formed No Age in late 2005 after the break-up of their former band, the L.A. hardcore outfit Wives. The pair eschewed a rock club for their first show. Instead they played an art show a friend of theirs curated at L.A.’s New Image Art gallery. The move illustrates No Age’s devotion to the art world, and they’re known almost as well for their visual and performance art and videos as their music. No Age, along with artist Brian Roettinger, were even nominated for a Grammy for the inventive packaging of the CD version of their 2008 sophomore record Nouns.
No Age brings a visual artist’s aesthetic to their just-released, fifth full-length album An Object. They paint with decibals and rumbling noise. But when you look between the lines of the sonic attacks and aural ambiance the band creates some catchy, fist-raising punk rock–the kind that makes you remember that the loud ‘n’ fast genre populated by lotsa angry young folks can be pretty darn fun too. One of the tunes that demonstrates that fact the best on the new record is “C’mon, Stimmung.” The word “stimmung” means “tone,” “mood,” or “atmosphere” in German (depending on who you ask). It’s also the name of a piece by German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, but except for a little drone, No Age’s “C’mon Stimmung” bears little resemblance that 1968 work (just a quick note: you can listen to the piece, but “German avant-garde composer” should tell you all you need to know). But it does have an almost kraut-rock, machine-like drive, pushed to its limit by a little blitzkrieg-bopping energy. Randall and Spunt dig in hard, and for a moment, you’re transported back to a time when punk was new, provocative, and plenty arty.
You can catch No Age live in Austin Saturday night along with Ringo Deathstarr and Coma in Algiers at the Museum of Human Achievement.