No Age with Rene Hell, The Gift, Small Bones and Baby Boy
7 p.m. Thursday
Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St.
Few bands and their birthplaces share such close association as Los Angeles noise-rockers No Age and downtown L.A. punk venue the Smell. Opened in a former grocery in 1998 by union organizer Jim Smith, the all-ages DIY space served as a SoCal CBGB for an onslaught of outsider artists during the last decade, a 200-capacity Yankee Stadium housing a murderer's row of independent musicians including Mika Miko, Barr, Abe Vigoda, Health and Lavender Diamond. The Smell has since ushered in a new wave of noisemakers (Protect Me, Moses Campbell, Dunes, Pocahaunted), and No Age's Dean Spunt and Randy Randall, who in September released their third consecutive crushing LP, Everything in Between (Sub Pop), are regarded as the building's Babe Ruth.
"I feel like the less I'm around, it's cool," says singer/drummer Spunt. "We're popular in the area, and especially at the Smell. Kids, off the cuff, they can sort of be fan'd out, like, 'Oh man, you're the guy!' I'm like, 'I'm just a guy. I'm just a kid, man.' ... You've got to make room for kids to do their thing. .... Working the door, learning how to do sound, learning how to express yourself in a band."
The Smell ethos informs everything No Age does today, from its handmade merch to its self-booked tours, on which all-ages venues take precedence. (Its Baton Rouge stop was moved to New Orleans for this reason.) "I started out going there as a fan, and when I started a band, I wanted to play there because we couldn't play anywhere else — no club would let us play," Spunt says. "It's cool to see kids keep going with that. The Smell represents a space to be creative, when no one else would let you be creative."
No Age's early singles were compiled and released in 2007 as the LP Weirdo Rippers, a pillaging assault of hardcore distortion whose fragmented melodies inched closer to the foreground on the band's slightly more polite Sub Pop debut, 2008's Nouns. Everything in Between is more mannered still, the clobbering battery of ear-bleeding feedback coming in spurts rather than sheets and a focus on whole songs, not broken sounds, congealing throughout. But it's those individual sounds that draw double takes: the screeching fills on "Fever Dreaming," old feedback samples manipulated to sound like a fraying brake belt, or the backward drumbeat of "Dusted," a sputtering cross of self-possessed typewriter and spray-happy sprinkler.
The creative partnership is an unlikely one, says Spunt, whose allegiance to anarchic U.K. minimalists Crass originally butted heads with Randall's preference for the wacko embellishments of Captain Beefheart. "It's funny, it sort of switched," he says. "We've talked about being younger: When he got a guitar, he would sit in his room for hours and just make noise and feedback. His older brother was into Sonic Youth. I'd never gotten into Sonic Youth. To me, hardcore music — a band like Black Flag or Jerry's Kids — I understood it as noise. ...
"(Randy) is more musical," Spunt says. "Randy plays the guitar every day. I don't play drums every day; I listen to music all the time, and I think about music every day. So when we're writing songs, I'm way more conceptual in the way that I think songs should be laid out and the way they're structured, and the way sounds are. I'll say, 'I think it should start like this, and then I think it should go to this feeling, and then this feeling.' Then he's like, 'These are the notes I was f—king with.'"