The latest dose of experimental punk from No Age comes in the form of the meticulously constructed An Object. A record filled with angst-ridden textures and an unrelenting nervous energy, it attempts to expand the band’s sound by looking inwards, minimizing the racket and upping the atmospherics. It’s one of those albums where one listen won’t cut it – You need to work hard to find anything to latch onto here. And there lies the problem with An Object; it’s an admirable effort that ultimately doesn’t connect the way No Age’s earlier albums did. It’s fine to push your audience, but at some point that difficult listen needs to pay off.
Right from the start, it’s clear No Age is going for the slow burn. “No Ground” starts things out filled with a jangly tension that turns into a thick guitar wall courtesy of Randy Randall. Dean Allen Spunt keeps the beat as he yelps out “who do you think I am?”, over the meandering guitar lines. It’s a great opener, yet indicative of the problem with An Object; there’s plenty of meandering and very little release. Even its follow-up, “I Won’t Be Your Generator” just sits there, inviting you to wait for something to happen as the band chugs along.
But then that something does happen on “C’mon, Stimmung”, an explosive powder-keg of a tune that rock and rolls with a vigor worthy of the term punk. Don’t get too used to this sound, because the band resets itself again with “Defector/ed”, going back to a dronelike song structure that feels limp when compared to its predecessor. There’s a method to the madness here on display from No Age with every third song exploding like a teenager free of parental shackles. Between those minor bursts of freedom come the confines of repetition.
Songs like “An Impression” or “Running From A-Go-Go” take minimalism to an extreme, relying heavily on atmosphere to break through the monotony of the group’s song structures. Unfortunately, the repetitive nature works against the band’s push inwards, effectively hurting the album’s momentum. The start and stop of every third track, along with these sparse production lead to songs that need to be listened to closely, yet don’t offer enough for the listener to want to stick around to get to the point where the album’s inner workings are revealed.
It’s a shame because An Object has a lot of potential, but as it stands, it’s only halfway to being a great album. There’s too many songs like the album closer “Commerce, Comment, Commence” with its flaccid arrangement leading the band down a road to nowhere. No Age is one of the more exciting bands to come out of the Los Angeles scene, but on An Object they appear bored with their own material.