Lot’s happened in 2010. Vampire Weekend’s Contra debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Jay Reatard died at 29, Pavement reunited for a tour, and Arcade Fire shocked the world with the Album Of The Year at the notorious Grammy’s. That was three years ago, and time has flown quickly. 2010 was also the last year No Age released an LP, titled Everything In Between. It’s still one of my favourites to this day, and has stood the test of time. I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard there would be a follow-up earlier this year, but a sudden spark of guilt took over. It seemed impossible for No Age to go for a hat trick with the amazing Nouns, followed by Everything In Between, and now leading up with An Object. The expectations are extremely high for this DIY-experimental punk duo, but they’ve been known for clutching up.
The entire lead up to this release was very promising. The duo wanted to get extremely close to the records heart, and did so by literally making every album by hand. The packaging, at least was made by the band itself, and the only separation between label and band was the actual pressing of the vinyl records. It shows on the music, as a lot of these tracks are stripped and toned down to represent the experimental side of the band. While always forward thinking on past albums, An Object shows a different side of the band. They use noise to lead tracks, like on the slow-cooker closer “Commerce, Comment, Commence”. The album as a whole is off in a way different direction than what I expected. Even the duration is shorter than Nouns, which clocks in at 30 minutes (An Object is 29 minutes).
From the get-go, “No Ground” doesn’t act much differently than any No Age album, and feels less abrasive until the sudden bass riff that rips apart the track in traditional fashion. It’s a very promising sign for the rest of the album. Following that is the album’s best track, “I Won’t Be Your Generator”, which resembles a Rockabilly riff that shifts into a post-punk influenced track. One of the best and most melodic tracks No Age has released to date. The only track that really sounds like older No Age is the next track, “C’mon Stimmung”, which as a whole is super solid. Lot’s of noise, lot’s of aggression, and would fit in nicely with Nouns. That being said, it doesn’t fit the sound scheme of An Object, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the stripped down and close to heart tracks that are found throughout the album. Oddly enough, it’s even the album’s only single. That just proves how out of the box the band is.
It’s difficult to figure out No Age’s intentions through their music, because of their cryptic sound. It’s not diverse, and even experimentation is hard to hear because they never stray away from their usual aggressive playing style. If I wasn’t told that this album would be different from their others, I wouldn’t have caught on in the first few listens. There’s still the smashing punk rock drum beats and mixture of noise and melody, but it’s more behind the scenes. “Running From A-Go Go” has a straightforward post-punk beat, but the melody and hooks are used in such an abstract way that it took intense listening to appreciate the song. Even the cello riff isn’t as catchy as I expected, but No Age are heading in a different direction. They’re expressing their anti-conformity view points through noise in protest. It’s the real reason behind the complexity of the tracks.
Now calling these songs ‘complex’ might dilute the term. What I intend behind to say is that this album isn’t as appealing as past albums, but still fills that No Age niche. I’ll be the first to admit that I was disappointed with what I heard at first. These tracks felt rushed and uninspired besides the first three, and No Age seemed to have hit a wall. As my listening and commitment to the band won me over and I listened more, the meaning behind An Object came to light. This album isn’t “An Object”, but a piece of art. To most, art means ‘self-expression’, and by that meaning, it is impossible to objectify art without knowing the true meaning. An Object is not like other No Age albums. It is a topic of discussion, a hidden gem in their discography in the future, an album that will be forgotten like many others. For now though, it’s filling the whole that No Age fans will appreciate the most, and I can live with that.