A decade ago, No Age arrived from a thriving West Coast D.I.Y. scene during a particularly fertile moment of experimentation and innovation in American indie rock. From the beginning, drumming singer and shouter Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall tested and even tortured the expected shapes and surfaces of punk rock anthems, warping the structures into unlikely sequences and pushing the volume of magnetic choruses or breathless guitars until they stretched into florid smears of sound. In 2007, Weirdo Rippers, their perfectly titled debut, compiled a sequence of singles that set the stage for everything to come—irresistible and emphatic songs baked by the California sun, art-rock that forsook neither side of that hyphen. On a series of great EPs and LPs for Sub Pop, No Age continued to pursue that pattern ever more aggressively, with fragmented lyrics that evaded easy meanings and obscure sounds that raised questions about how the simplest rock ’n’ roll instruments could feel so complex.
On their final album for Sub Pop, 2013’s An Object, they even challenged the limits of what it meant to mass-release a piece of art, hand-assembling 10,000 copies of the record themselves. Early this year, No Age returned on a new label (Drag City) with its first album in five years, the wonderful Snares Like a Haircut. On its dozen songs, they sound recharged, with huge hooks that triumph through layers of hum and distortion. But there’s also a newfound delicacy and accessibility to some of these tunes, a sense that No Age has grown comfortable pulling songs like the addictive “Send Me” or the hypnotic and revealing “Squashed” from their protective sonic shell. No Age have argued with the rules of rock songs from the start, long before their appearance on the main stage of the first Hopscotch; eight years later, they’re still testing themselves.