I missed the No Age bandwagon the first time around. I missed them playing to a dozen or so people at ArtWorks on their first time through Seattle, when the only hype about them was, "Hey, these are the dudes from Wives' new band." I missed the buzz around their first album, or, rather, I heard the buzz—Sub Pop, the New Yorker, etc.—but I didn't quite catch what it was all about. Sure, Weirdo Rippers had a couple great, energetically catchy songs that combined basement-shaking thrash with ambient pedal noise—"Everybody's Down," "Boy Void," and "Neck Escaper" among them. It had a good-looking scene behind it, with the L.A. punk kids pictured on the album's sleeve. But, maybe unsurprisingly for a record cobbled together from five previously released EPs, it was a jolting, uneven affair, often intriguing but hardly immersive.

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Headlining the Showbox in January, the duo seemed woefully out of place in that big, ornate, partially full theater. Their sound dissipated rather than overwhelmed. Their intimate energetic gestures—Randy Randall scaling then leaping from his amp, Dean Spunt flailing at the drums and exhorting the crowd to move—stirred things up front but didn't carry through the room. Live, the alternating static and punk of Weirdo Rippers felt like a more organic ebb and flow, songs swelling with noise and then breaking into emotional and anthemic—but sometimes sonically thin—choruses. Still, one wondered if the band's scrappy sound and intimate antics could ever fill a room that big.

All of which only makes Nouns that much more revelatory. Forget Weirdo Rippers, this is No Age's proper debut: an unexpected blast of an album that totally fulfills every scrap of hype these guys have accumulated over the last year and then some. Its songs are oddball anthems, oblique sing-alongs busied by swarms of sweet noise and punctuated by moments of reflective quiet.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to have Sub Pop's support. The recording quality on Nouns, though still intentionally rough, is better by leagues than Weirdo Rippers, and the album comes packaged with a 70-page booklet of photography, video stills, and lyrics that capture No Age's L.A. art scene, their life on the road, and the friends and fans who support them.

"Miner" begins the album with a few seconds of echoing, distantly roaring guitar before jumping into a full-on punk charge of layered, distorted guitars, pounding pogoing drums, and buried vocals straining to break onto the surface. "Eraser" builds bright, almost-acoustic guitar strumming into a fuzzed-out antifolk jam. Again, Spunt's vocals, sung from behind the drum kit, sit relatively low in the mix, equal to the instrumental noise that surrounds them. "Things I Did When I Was Dead" is a haunting, monotonous lope. The chorus of "Cappo" is practically all white noise and snare stomp, its hook smothered but subtly audible. "Keechie" and "Impossible Bouquet" are pacific ambient interludes with Spunt taking a break from the drums.

"Teen Creeps" and "Sleeper Hold" are the album's two most powerful tracks. The former is a bittersweet rocker, with heaving minor guitar power chords emerging from swirls of distortion, and Spunt singing, pained, "Wash away what we create/I hate you more, I hate this place." The latter begins with a build of pulse-quickening kick drum and bright, hyperactively strummed, and distorted guitar, then breaks into a careening joyride. A morose, lonely verse emerges from minutes of the backward- slipping delay of "Errand Boy" before trailing off into nothing.

A lot of influences ricochet and echo around on this record, but a few echo loudest. There's Sonic Youth, of course, both in the band's melding of slanted pop and digressive experimentalism and in their shared penchant for age-defying monikers. There's a little bit of Built to Spill's sloppier, poppier side in Spunt's wide-eyed vocals and Randall's fragile driving melodies. Most exciting though, are the unexpected, though eagerly welcomed, traces of Sam Jayne's teenage trio Lync, whose fractured, fuzzy indie rock deserves greater credit for presaging countless bands. These last two reference points are especially pronounced on songs like "Sleeper Hold," "Here Should Be My Home," "Ripped Knees," and "Brain Burner."

Throughout, No Age mix noise, punk, and pop in unusual and deeply satisfying ways, dressing up by-the-numbers pop structures with peripheral chaos, hiding hooks under deep layers of lo-fi squall.

No Age: I get it now. I am jumping on this wagon. Make room. recommended

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Nouns is out May 6 on Sub Pop.

egrandy@thestranger.com

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