As a general rule, I must admit to finding most of the stuff that goes by the dubious name of “nu-gaze” pretty lame. If there’s a minor boom in bands who revisit the aesthetics of shoegazing, most of them strike me as being awfully conventional, a particularly insipid kind of indie that revolves around weak vocals, predictable effects and a generally fey take on orthodoxy.
Two decades ago, maybe some of this stuff would’ve appealed to me: I actually started my career as a music journalist by writing about Ride, Slowdive and so on. But in the same way as I wrote about a lack of affectionate nostalgia the other day, very few of those records (the glaring exception, of course, being the enduringly extraordinary My Bloody Valentine) sound much good to me now. I think of a lot of that stuff as gateway drugs: music that introduced me to the possibilities of experimental music, of noise, even. By the time I’d spent a few years immersed in that stuff, the sound of most shoegazing struck me as ineffably tame.
I write about this because I’m playing the new album by No Age right now, and it strikes me that this LA duo have found a way of revitalising the idea of shoegazing – or more specifically, the sound of My Bloody Valentine, without having to resort (like most useful disciples of Kevin Shields) to electronica.
“Nouns” is the first proper album by No Age, following a great compilation of singles called “Weirdo Rippers” that came out last year. It begins with “Miner”, a fabulous torrent of noise that (much like Track Seven, “Sleeper Hold”) reminds me of MBV’s “Feed Me With Your Kiss”. No Age use noise as a tool of attack rather than an ethereal balm, and they hook it to tunes which align them with the sound of the post-hardcore ‘80s American underground, not wimpy Anglo indie.
In other words, No Age are a punk band, but a volatile and inventive one. Only two songs on this 12-track marvel of an album last more than three minutes, and many have snot-caked skater-boy titles like “Teen Creeps”, “Ripped Knees” and “Brain Burner”. Occasionally (“Impossible Bouquet” and “Keechie”, maybe), they come up with a vigorous lo-fi take on ambience. Other times, as on “Here Should Be My Home”, they’re more straightforwardly, enthusiastically, tinnily punk.
Mostly, though, they make a fantastically direct and energising racket that makes me think they should be supporting Sonic Youth for the next decade. They’re playing the Uncut stage at the Great Escape in Brighton in May, by the way, on a weird and exciting bill that also includes – I think – Bon Iver and Wild Beasts. Should be quite a night. . .