10 years ago, a multi-colored, noisy yet pop-inclined punk record and band made a significant splash in the underground music scene. I’m talking about Nouns, by the L.A.-based duo No Age. This wasn’t my first exposure to the band — that came in the form of the almost equally brilliant follow-up: 2010’s Everything In Between, which is a much more polished, fleshed-out take on the band’s sound.
After falling in love with In Between, I undertook the journey every music nerd gets to embark on once they discover a new band they enjoy — I checked out their old shit. Upon coming across a copy of the aforementioned 2008 debut release at a local book/record store that I now work for — your probable response to this sentence: “Of course this dude works for a book/record store” *rolls eyes* — and it became “one of those albums” to me. What do I mean by that? Well, not only is it a record which I feel a certain attachment and undying love for the songs on it, but it helped steep and cement my interest and need to explore more and more avenues of indie and underground music leading to why I’m here, doing what I do today.
Now here we are, 10 years and three records later, and No Age are back at it with a new release entitled Snares Like A Haircut. The hype was real for this one, my friends. Does it disappoint?
…No, actually, not even close. In fact, Snares is a triumph in a lot of ways. First way being that it’s better than their last record (2013’s good-but-kinda-lopsided An Object). Second being that it sounds like a wiser, more mature version of the seminal Nouns. The third and final way is how the record in general feels delivered by a band that’s realized what they do best, while raising the bar on their already expert attributes and simultaneously not losing their ability and desire to experiment with their sound — or, as I like to call it, “the musical equivalent of aging gracefully.”
Believe me, as a long-time fan of this band, it’s quite relieving to say that; especially being when their previous effort didn’t really give me that impression. Object had me worried about this project; that maybe No Age would lose the ferocity, sound experimentation, and melody that made me fall so deeply in love with them in the first place. My doubts were put to rest a bit after hearing lead single “Soft Collar Fad,” but still, that’s just one track. What if? WHAT IF!?
However, those questions and concerns were put to rest literally the moment I put the album on. Album opener, “Cruise Control,” is a beautiful noise-punk, life-affirming blast that feels like being reunited with an old friend. It enjoys a delirious and crunchy sound, while simultaneously conjuring up such pretty melodies and atmosphere, which is what these guys do best — affirming that these guys have not lost a touch of their grace whatsoever.
Track four, “Send Me,” is a super bright and indie pop-leaning cut that features a very laid-back, slacker-esque vocal melody from drummer/singer Dean Spunt. It’s a captivating first listen, and well worth repeated spins. It should also be noted how much of a love letter this track sounds like to 80s underground legends Hüsker Dü, a band that No Age has always been very vocal about being a direct influence on them — nowhere more obvious than on this track. Elsewhere, the one-two punch of “Tidal,” as well as the aforementioned “Soft Collar Fad,” sees the band playing at their punkiest heights. It’s simple, it’s rudimentary, and it’s catchy as hell.
Snares is not the completely direct or accessible listen as these tracks exemplify. On a No Age record, it’s typical to have a couple tracks of pure noise/ambient experimentation, with “Third Grade Rave” and the title track exemplifying this on the tracklist. What sets these cuts apart from others throughout their discography is how much more adventurous they are in comparison to the band’s preceding ambient outings. This is especially true on “Rave,” with its eccentric rhythm patterns on drums, it takes their approach to ambient music in a much more primal way. With the very experimental “Squashed” and “Primitive Plus,” Snares even ends stylistically with less of a bang and more with a sense of unease and tension that is super engrossing and captivating.
nares Like a Haircut is a winner and a very early crown jewel for indie rock in 2018. It’s a record from a band that proves exactly why they are as beloved as they are by the fans who have been listening for years, becoming positive proof of the cult status they have rightfully earned. It’s art rock, just by way of punk rock. It’s as easy to be put into a trance by listening to it as it is to headbang to.
8.5 out of 10
— Dan Fiorio, Music Blogger