No Age


This is the loudest gig I’ve been to in a long, long while. Sweet Jesus is it loud. Even through my earplugs (protect your hearing kids!) it’s loud, and that is pretty damn impressive. Nothing is ever going to top the My Bloody Valentine show I saw as the most ear destroying gig I’ve been to, but I imagine if I’d forgotten those little bits of rubber to shove in my ears, this might have some close. I am prepared because last time I saw LA duo No Age at the Deaf Institute a few years back, I forgot my ear plugs and it took about 3 days for my hearing to get back to normal. There are only two of them, Randy Randall (incredible name) on guitar and Dean Spunt on vocals and drums (I LOVE a singing drummer), but oh my do they make a ferocious, wonderful racket between them.

In town to support their brilliant new LP Snares Like A Haircut, their best effort since their masterpiece Everything In Between, the packed Soup Kitchen’s dank (in a good way!) basement is the perfect setting for them. Stage set up is minimal; half a drum kit, a couple of mic stands, and what can only be described as a fuck-ton of amps behind them. As they come on stage, my fingers cautiously playing with my earplugs in my hand, ready to deploy when it all gets a bit too much, I’m tingling with the anticipation of hearing songs from one of my favourite albums of the year so far. As soon as Randall fires up his guitar for an opening noise-drone (of which several from the album punctuate the set), I immediately whack in my earplugs as the whole basement reverberates with a sonic intensity I haven’t heard for a long time, and it’s glorious. From here on in there’s no let up from the couple on stage, and it’s thrilling.

Opening with ‘Cruise Control’ and ‘Stuck in the Changer’, the first two songs from the new album, immediately the crowd is fully into it, with intense head nodding that isn’t quite head banging deployed across the audience, getting lost in the thick fug of the sound enveloping them. I’m always amazed by the brilliant melodies of No Age tracks that are buried underneath the noise – they may be playing at 100 miles an hour and treating their instruments like they’ve wronged them in some way, but there is always a sing along ear worm at the heart of everything they do, and this is what makes them so special. Spunt, the singing drummer, does not have a great voice, but his deadpan delivery is the perfect foil for the chaos going on around him. And Randall is one of the best guitar players in indie-dom, managing to get sounds out of a single guitar that I haven’t seen anyone since Jack White do, all squeals and gigantic riffs, he’s extraordinary.

No where better is all this displayed as on Everything in Between cut ‘Fever Dreaming’. Spunt is hammering away on the kit, yelping “you only want me when I’m fever dreaming” as the crowd yell along with him, Randall contorting noise from his guitar that pierces the ears and thrills the heart, it’s properly brilliant. We get most of the Snares… highlights, including ‘Drippy’ and a monstrous ‘Soft Collar Fad’ as well as a couple of older cuts in ‘C’mon, Strimming’ and a surprise ‘Teen Creeps’ from their second album Nouns, which is lapped up by the rapt crowd.

There’s no grand encore, just a heartfelt speech from Randall about how, growing up the sunny climate of LA listening to the Smiths and Joy Division, he always wanted to come to see the rainy, grey place such dour music was made, and thanked us that this ‘wonderfully miserable city’ lived up to those expectations (in a totally great way!), before another couple of songs are deployed and they’re done. My insides shaken, my ears intact, I head out into another dour Manchester evening full of joy that a band like No Age are still around a decade after their debut, making brilliant albums and an unholy noise on this Easter weekend.

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