Sweet Dichotomy

No Age at the Middle East Downstairs, November 24, 2008
By RICHARD BECK  |  December 2, 2008


No Age are a punk duo from Los Angeles. A week ago Monday at the Middle East downstairs, their clothes helped explain what they were up to. Guitarist Randy Randall was indifferently draped in a flannel button-down, hair spilling down his brow — the legacy of '90s grunge. Dean Spunt, drumming and singing away, was happily housed in a tight, clean, yellow T-shirt. Hello pop songs, hello choruses, hello Los Angeles sunshine. How would these sensibilities get along? Just great. Their show had me grinning like an idiot.

Throughout the night, the pair hopped back and forth between short, thrashing punk nuggets and big, dreamy washes of deep-sea guitar fuzz — a winning formula. On "Miner," Randall's opening roars of distortion, pitching back and forth like a carnival pirate ship, were suddenly kicked into high-tempo gear by Spunt's cheerfully catastrophic drumming. The song rushed headlong to its conclusion, Spunt's vocals almost inaudible behind the racket — perfect.

The music's emotional simplicity notwitstanding (many of their songs are straightforward feel-goodies), Spunt and Randall are audaciously talented. Spunt's punky drumming shifted constantly, and he gave a slow, thudding heartbeat to the spacier stuff. Randall is a straight-up pedal wizard; every minute or so he'd reroute the sound, and once again I'd think, "Oh, right! Guitars can sound like that too."

The crowd at this all-ages show was young, stylish, enthusiastic, and way too small. Maybe people were out buying turkeys. But on the closing night of this band's first national tour, it was good to feel that they'd be back before long. A new song, "Fuck Prop. 8 in the Face," was the most anthemic thing I've heard from them, and it was the one time that the high-schoolers really got to moshing. I didn't join in — journalistic objectivity and all — but I came close.

Related: Review: The Thermals at the Middle East downstairs, Slideshow: The Thermals at the Middle East downstairs, Slideshow: Easy Star All-Stars at the Middle East downstairs, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Pete Wentz, Los Angeles, Middle East Downstairs,  More more >
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