No Age’s An Object has a lot in common with its predecessor, 2010’s grungy Everything in Between. Both albums boast a dense wall of sound composed of droning guitars and piercing feedback mixed with disaffected vocals. But whereas the previous album offset its harsh sonic palate with a bevy of earworm-y hooks and melodies, An Object is built on the no-wave conceit of anti-melody.
There’s something to be said for the way noise can be employed to disrupt a listener’s sense of comfort, creating an arrangement opposed to predictability. Bands such as Nu Sensae and Talk Normal have used discordant sounds to great effect, where unsettling rhythms and erratic shifts in tone resulted in dark but engrossing albums. In its finest moments, An Object works in a similar fashion, employing dissonance to suggest restlessness and unease. “Defector/ed,” with its three pulsing bass notes and screeching backing guitars, is a monotonous piece of drone-rock, but that’s the point, as the static predictability of the music is juxtaposed with lyrics about life’s constant changes. On “I Won’t Be Your Generator,” he touches on a handful of tired tropes, lamenting the inevitability of failed love and the messy aftermath, but the urgency of the band’s fervent two-chord wall of distortion serves to liven up those clichés. “Circling with Dizzy,” one of the album’s best cuts, uses overdriven guitars to create a staggering helicopter-blade effect where the feedback cuts in and out; coupled with Randy Randall’s frantic drumming, the result is an unforgiving piece of in-your-face punk noise.
No Age’s commitment to ruthless sonics, with nary a hook to be found throughout the album, also makes An Object occasionally tedious. Everything in Between held together because the dissonance served as a mask for the band’s clear dedication to catchy songwriting. An Object contains no such euphony, and therefore lacks the diversity and charm of its predecessor. The album’s middle stretch in particular is plagued by monotony; the challenging of melodic expectations of earlier tracks on the album turns into creative stagnation. “Running from A Go-Go” is uninspiring in its bleakness, as lead singer Dean Spunt’s voice is lost within rootless, repetitive guitar riffs, while “Lock Box” finds No Age ramping up the tempo, but falling back on easy classic-rock signifiers.
Still, An Object closes with a stellar one-two punch: “A Ceiling Dreams of a Floor” layers guitar noise a la My Bloody Valentine, briskly and confidently building to a towering emotional catharsis, while “Commerce, Comment, Commerce” is painstaking in its dedication to the construction of tension, using reverb sparingly until it explodes into a cacophony of feedback. These final two tracks are perhaps the purest distillation of No Age’s creative vision and suggest that, while there are times when the band seems complacent, they still have plenty of sounds left to explore and destroy.