As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers commemorate it with one song from that year that resonates with them. This week, Martin Douglas looks back at No Age's 2007 quasi-anthem "Everybody's Down" and the emergence of a localized DIY experimental punk scene right at the cusp of indie music's commercialization explosion. Read or listen to the piece below.
By 2007, the mainstream commodification of indie-rock music was almost complete. We were deep in the quagmire of highly grossing mainstream movies and television rife with characters whose tastes in music were more informed by Pitchfork’s Best New Music than Billboard’s Top 100. The O.C. had turned liking Death Cab for Cutie into an identifiable character trait; Juno had ushered Kimya Dawson to a whole new audience of people whom had never even heard of a vegan potluck, let alone the punk houses that hosted them along with performances.
In the coming years, Jay-Z and Beyonce would make headlines simply by grooving to Grizzly Bear, and an artist who recorded his breakout indie-folk record in a Wisconsin cabin would be Kanye West’s go-to session musician. Tucked away in this cash grab for indie-rock cred was a loose collective of weird punk bands, located a few short miles from Hollywood’s billion-dollar entertainment industry. They were united by an all-ages music venue only accessible through a Downtown Los Angeles alleyway.
That venue was rather descriptively named The Smell and its alumni are some of the most thrilling and creative punk bands to come out of the West Coast in decades. Abe Vigoda, Mika Miko, HEALTH. And a relentlessly visionary two-piece punk outfit named after an obscure SST compilation: No Age.
They were formed out of the dissolution of a band called Wives and profoundly inspired by the influential punk label that put Black Flag on the map and released arguably Sonic Youth’s best records. Drummer/singer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall used No Age as a way to explore their most unconventional tendencies; not just musically, but in the very function of being a punk band. They played libraries and vegan groceries and on the basin of the L.A. River. They released a slew of music — several different vinyl-only releases on several different labels — on the same day. March 26th, 2007.
“Everybody’s Down” is side one, track one of the band’s incredible Get Hurt EP, starting with an anthemic rumbling of a guitar lick. Spunt sings of exhaustion and charred bodies while Randall’s guitar line keeps rumbling along. That is, until…
Until it explodes into controlled chaos; drums being bashed, a dissonant guitar figure escaping into the frame never to be heard again. Spunt tries to sing above the din and barely achieves his objective.
“Everybody’s Down” made it onto No Age’s debut compilation of these somewhat obscure highlights, Weirdo Rippers. Many of the songs on the full-length could easily articulate what No Age is about, including the art-damaged hardcore of “Boy Void,” the ambient interlude “Sun Spots,” or the dreamy punk rock of “Dead Plane,” “Every Artist Needs a Tragedy,” or “Neck Escaper.” But only “Everybody’s Down” serves as the thrilling, cathartic clapback at generation disaffection, the thunderous arrival of a collective of special new bands. A call to arms to do it your damn self and stay weird in the milquetoast halcyon period of “mainstream indie.” Because the line between indie rock and bland adult alternative only gets blurrier from here.
As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we’re looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one release from that year that resonates with them. This week, Dusty Henry reflects on Japandroids’ 2012 son…
As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year. This week, we spotlight 1992 and the Pavement single "Summer Babe (Winter Version)."