Noise-rockers No Age have always managed to stay a couple of steps ahead of their peers. As a result, they have garnered a reputation as a voguish and consistently exciting fixture within certain alt-punk circles. It’s a hard-won reputation which has come about as a result of an impressively efficacious output since their incendiary debut album Nouns in 2008. Since then, the L.A. based duo have delivered album after album of galvanising lo-fi punk with a rebellious experimental edge.
Things feel far less immediate on Goons be Gone. The duo’s penchant for combining raucous punk hooks and meandering experimentation is present and correct and, indeed, for every murky instrumental interlude there’s a punchy and singable punk rock counterpart. The difference here lies in the fact that these disparate elements are melded far less organically than in previous efforts. Rather than being content to let the two run in parallel, it seems that they take turns about: the disorienting melodies of Working Stiff Takes A Break are followed by the incisive punk-rock of War Dance; which is followed by the abstract musical interlude Toes in the Water; which is followed by the guitar-driven Turned to String; and so it goes on.
That’s not to say that No Age have let the quality of these songs slip – indeed, the aforementioned War Dance and Turned to String represents some of their most polished work to date – the overall effect is just a little dulled. Goons be Gone is No Age at their most straightforward, full of slight, energetic rhythms which are punctuated by all-too-brief forays into the hazy experimental waters which has elevated their sound to date.
Songs like Puzzled, Feeler and Head Sport Full Face are bright, energetic but, dare one say, disappointingly formulaic for a band like No Age, who have made their home on the cutting edge for the last twelve years. These songs are precise and, as always, these guys make an impressive amount of noise with such a limited set up. Goons be Gone, then, is perhaps a victim of its creator’s capability: one has come to expect more from the noise-punk stalwarts.