Music Reviews
People Helping People

No Age People Helping People

(Drag City) Rating - 6/10

Los Angeles’ resident noise poppers No Age have always thrived on texture. From Randy Randall’s lavish, billowing guitar tones to Dean Spunt’s overclocked drumming, the duo puts sonic aesthetics first and content second and have been all the more memorable for it. My two personal favorite records in their catalog thus far are Nouns (2008), a stone-cold indie classic and probably the most obvious pick, and Snares Like a Haircut (2018), a much more recent release by the over-fifteen-year-old band that holds up remarkably well. I bring this up because I think No Age is more than capable of great late-career releases. But unfortunately, People Helping People, their latest, lacks the attention to detail and, more importantly, the memorability of many of their previous LPs. 

This isn’t to say PHP is a painful or arduous listening experience. It's quite the contrary: clocking in at a lightning-blast 34 minutes, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. A highlight is the tuneful Violence, which has angular riffage and marching-band beats (the chantable vocals are a nice touch, to boot–“Vi-v-v-vi-v-v-vi-v-v-vi-o-lence”). Rush to the Pond casts glimpses of No Age’s classic material, complete with a soaring, gliding refrain and washes of hazy guitar that make it sound like something out of a dream recorded on VHS. And Tripped out Before Scott is an undeniable gem, as it showcases what No Age is best at: taking bizarre, impressionistic sounds and warping them into catchy rock songs. 

But ultimately, PHP is underwhelming, which is the last thing anyone could want from a No Age album. There are far too many tracks on this LP where I can tell Randall and Spunt are present–the No Age I know and love are deep down in there, somewhere–but aren’t engaged. Take sub-two-minute-mark vignettes Fruit Bat Blunder, Interdependence, and Flutter Freer for example, which all sound oddly lazy and demo-ish. The duo’s previous work is so much more awe-inspiring than this, and I don’t even have to go back to their classics to say that. I could go back to Snares Like a Haircut and pull songs like Cruise Control, Stuck in the Changer, or Send Me for comparison. Those cuts alone smoke everything on People Helping People for breakfast.