It’s been sixteen years since Randy Randall and Dean Spunt formed No Age. If that doesn’t make you feel long in the tooth then, well… kudos to you. It only seems like yesterday since the lo-fi bluster of Weirdo Rippers and, since then, No Age have shape-shifted beyond the skate parks and streets of Los Angeles which have served as direct inspirations.
While Randall and Spunt have moved seamlessly through the years, so has their music, for no one No Age record sounds like the next. Dispensing staple punk-inspired shredders has always been too easy for this pair, and this was exemplified earlier this year, as Spunt deconstructed hardcore alongside John Wiese with their collaboration album, The Echoing Shell.
Randall has also had his moments, utilising tone and tremolo to take No Age into new landscapes, and People Helping People – the band’s sixth album – continues this journey.
With the kind of ambient interludes that made 2018’s Snares Like a Haircut such a thrilling abstract experience, it continues on People Helping People. Cuts like You’re Cooked, Fruit Bat Blunder, Interdependence and Blueberry Barefoot, are the kind of soundscapes that could accompany an independent film.
And while these similar approaches are evident, People Helping People is a contrasting record to that to Snares’ and 2020’s Goons Be Gone. While Snares’ took shoegaze to new dark places, People Helping People focuses on bending punk into new shapes and sizes, with a range of garage rock sound collages and skewed sonic explorations few in this space have delivered.
Mixing minimalism with the lo-fi crunch Weirdo Rippers, Compact Flashes, Slow Motion Patterns and the cacophony of Violence are like a buzzsaw cutting through a marching band.
Melding together the off-kilter and sonic orthodoxy, Flutter Feet leads into highlights, Rush to the Pond and Tripped Out Before Scott. Perhaps the best representations of No Age circa-2022. Here the band pulls the thread from their past through to the present, with whirring guitars that chime, and alongside Spunt’s loose percussion, he and Randall infiltrate the broad church of punk.
Heavenly and Andy Helping Andy end People Helping People, which sees No Age floating in the ether with something likened to ambient rock. It’s a place that could well become the band’s natural habitat for future releases.
With the kind of end that keeps us guessing, it begs the question: where will No Age go to next? You can guarantee it will be into another skewed sound world, but in the meantime the one in which they occupy on People Helping People is yet another that excites, confirming that No Age are as relevant as ever.
People Helping People is out now via Drag City. Purchase from Bandcamp.