Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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No Age

  • Weirdo Rippers [Fat Cat, 2007] A-
  • Nouns [Sub Pop, 2008] A-
  • Losing Feeling [Sub Pop EP, 2009] ***
  • Everything in Between [Sub Pop, 2010] A
  • An Object [Sub Pop, 2013] A-
  • Snares Like a Haircut [Drag City, 2018] A-
  • Goons Be Gone [Drag City, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Weirdo Rippers [Fat Cat, 2007]
These two senior skateboarders' distended guitars and obtrusive trap drums are the sound of realized misery, which is so much better than some egomaniac screaming because adulthood is scary. They know they hurt because that girl is gone and they know they hurt because America is spilling its coffee on them. They're saving room for their baby in the pit, but they'd rather not fight you for it. Sometimes they think death is hope, sometimes pain. But they're "not afraid of laughter because it's all feeling too." And they're not afraid of beauty either. A-

Nouns [Sub Pop, 2008]
Randy Randall and Dean Spunt aren't the kind of new punk geniuses who'll be putting "When I Come Around" on the pop charts two albums from now. They're the kind of new punk geniuses who'll be getting commissioned by Cal Arts to augment a production of Waiting for Godot or score a webcam installation. Imagine one of Glenn Branca's microtonal symphonies for massed amped-up guitars cut down to two minutes with vocals, chord changes and drums, lots of Spunt's drums. Be more interesting that way, right? Their debut was called Weirdo Rippers because that's how it sounded. This one's solider, more concrete--even beautiful sometimes. A-

Losing Feeling [Sub Pop EP, 2009]
Vinyl-only EP exploring the musical question, "What to do, what to do, elegiac raveups or peculiar songs?" ("Losing Feeling," "You're a Target"). ***

Everything in Between [Sub Pop, 2010]
Having disbanded their punk trio to prove they weren't simply or even primarily punks, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall apply their bag of arty tricks to a punk album with a punk narrative. "I try to make myself seem vague/Cause the words get so engraved"--OK, understood, only not entirely, which is how they want it. Hence 10 of these songs are directed at a "you" that could be a boss, a colleague, an audience, a roommate, or, obviously, a girlfriend, but who is only clearly a female once. There are also three instrumentals, which contextualize the songful riffage of most of the other tracks with the atmospheres in which they've specialized. But the decisive atmosphere is provided by the riffage--hooks and power chords as anthemic as any in punk, only shot through with their atmospheric chops and innovations. In other words, it's a punk album with a difference, which at this late date is the only kind you can count on for a thrill. And what it says beyond its seeming vagueness is: "we" care about "you." A

An Object [Sub Pop, 2013]
With drummer-etc. Dean Spunt's vocals mixed up front and enunciated like he means them, you'd think they'd gone pop on us except that, in the great Moore-Ranaldo tradition, pop is well beyond Spunt's manful monotone. But in the same great tradition, he and guitar-wielding Randy Randall are committed to rendering noise as music. Is that a saxophone lowing underneath "C'mon, Stimmung"'s I'm-OK-I'm-OK? Are those electric cellos bowing behind "An Impression"'s Monet appreciation? Is that a full orchestra plus ornithological field recordings--oh, never mind. I hope not. There's a pleasure on the far edge of song in imagining that two DIY purists are making all these musical noises with their guitar collection and their home studio. A-

Snares Like a Haircut [Drag City, 2018]
Ever since they were the de facto house band at LA's Smell, these two art-punks have subsisted totally within the insular club/museum/gallery/festival circuit. So five years after the somewhat abstract An Object, this grand return to the ugly-gorgeous is true to itself as if the larger society was no more vexing than it ever was. Ditching Sub Pop for indier-than-that Drag City, they do what they've always done only better: abrade and uplift simultaneously. Drummer-vocalist Dean Spunt is an equal partner--"Send me / Where should I go?" he repeats and repeats on the first true singalong in a catalogue more songful than you'd figure. But guitar cenobite Randy Randall owns the record. Unfurling more harmonic effects than I bet he can name, he envelops every catchy tunelet and nasty noise in overtones that'll tear you up as in make you cry and tear you up as in blow your mind. Attributing political significance or hope to this act of aesthetic commitment would misrepresent its intent. It means only to help its people thrive in whatever world proves their lot. A-

Goons Be Gone [Drag City, 2020]
Recorded "summer 2019," the minimalist-minus CD package notes. So time passed before whatever goons the title targets decided how they felt about masks, during which this spare, steadfast duo put the finishing touches on the latest edition of their grateful grate--long textural leads to brassy static to tolling guitar noise to looped feedback over organ tweets and more, all deployed cleverly enough to suit me. Avant-punk dissatisfieds may wonder how long the pair expect to stay on this bus. I admire the way they always come down on the right side of the divide between commitment and repeating yourself. A-

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