Randy Randall (No Age): 5 Albums That Changed My Life
No Age (a.k.a. Randy Randall and Dean Spunt) are out with their fourth studio album, Snares Like a Haircut, on January 26 (via Drag City). To herald the release of the L.A. punk band’s latest, Randall put together a list of records that broke his brain and changed his life.
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Sonic Youth, Goo
I was 12 or 13 and I remember being upset by Goo. I got it as a tape from my older brother. I got it late. It had already been out for, I think, a year or two, or a couple of years. It was a cassette tape version of it, and it was the summer between eighth grade and going into high school. We were redoing our roof on the house — my dad, brother and I. Me being the least excited about this prospect of being on a roof all summer long in the hot sun, and just being an angsty teenager. I was not excited about this, but I did have Sonic Youth’s Goo.
I remember putting it on and just being pissed. Like, ‘This isn’t music. What is …?’ My brain couldn’t really understand. I didn’t have any kind of context for what was happening on Goo. Now, looking back, it was probably one of the more accessible Sonic Youth records. But as a 12-, 13-year-old, it was really kind of assaulting.
I really felt like, ‘This is bullshit. This isn’t real. I don’t know what this is. I’m so angry. I’m just an angry kid in general. I hate everybody. I hate you, Dad.’ But I kept listening. It ended, and I put it on again. I think I did that all summer long.
I was so drawn into it, and it really kind of just cracked my little skull open in a way that sort of never got put back together. This was like an evolution of whatever I thought rock & roll was in my 12-year-old brain. This is rock & roll. This is punk. This is angry. This is an affront on all levels, not just three chords and some braggy English lyrics. It wasn’t just lyrics and attitude and clothes. It wasn’t a posture; it was real to me, the way I felt it. This is angry at its core.
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
I got a cassette version of Loveless from my older brother. Again, he was kind of the gateway for me to a lot of cool music. He was 25 at the time, and I was 12, so he knew what was cool and I didn’t.
I think [the album] slowly warped my mind into this way of looking at music as these kinds of layered compositions rather than just … It was the next course on the syllabus of ’90s guitar rock. It’s like, OK, Sonic Youth, I understand. I got that. That’s kind of strange in some regards. But then Loveless is like, ‘Oh, what is this? This is now a whole other layer of music.’
I think to categorize something as life-changing, it kind of has to do that [change the way you think about music]. I thought one way, my point of view was one thing, and then after getting into this record, I was never going to look at the world the same again. I never looked at music the same again. So that’s kind of where Loveless came in, too, just deeper. Like, guitars can be made to sound not like guitars. An album can be mixed in this way, and just sucks you in as a listener, and causes you to really have to dig deeper for it. It’s not coming out to you, the listener, you have to go into it, the music, almost in a way.
Fugazi, 13 Songs
Fugazi is probably later, high school years, for me. I think that album was life-changing because of the politics of the band and what the band represented. Five dollar shows, always all ages. Again, the music was catchy, and I could understand that, and it was exciting musically and the compositions worked in a different way than I had heard previous to that. But it was also something about how they presented themselves as a band, and how they went about interacting with the world as a band.
It really changed my mind, kind of broke my mind again. Like, ‘Oh, right, bands aren’t always on MTV. Bands don’t have to be this kind of bigger thing. Bands can come from a DIY community.’
Black Flag, The First Four Years
Black Flag, for me, was kind of a troubling experience, because I think growing up in Southern California in the ’90s, it was sort of post their active heyday. ‘Punk Rock’ was this kind of thing that was sold at the mall and Hot Topic. We’re getting into the world of Blink-182 on MTV and those kinds of things.
So I think a band like Black Flag kind of, not through any fault of their own, had kind of been commoditized in a weird sort of generic punk way. Like the kids on the football team had Misfits shirts on. It was like this thing of, ‘OK, it’s not very challenging. Especially when I’m already listening to Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth, these noisier sort of bands.’ I was like, ‘Really? Black Flag?’
I think I had probably heard them, kind of similar to the Ramones, as well. It’s like, ‘OK, this is all kind of straight. This is sort of for the jocks.’ But it wasn’t until I was then in college, and met [my band mate] Dean, that Black Flag was shown to me in a different context than the high school jocks. It’s not about Blink-182 and all of pop-punk that had kind of came after it. This was a reference point.
Neil Young, Harvest
I don’t know if all musicians go through this or all people go through this, but it’s all fast and loud [when it comes to music] in your teenage years and your early 20s. Then Neil Young’s Harvest comes along. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, OK. Maybe not everything is 100 miles per hour.’ It’s not all the most extreme sounding thing.
Sometime in high school — because I think Neil was living in the Claremont, Pomona area — I saw him at a small coffee shop. I bought a 7-inch in ’95, somewhere in ’96 or something. I was like, ‘Wow.’
I guess this is the other side of the coin, the extreme of just one man and a guitar. It’s like, ‘What damage can you do with that?’ But when you hear somebody who does it well and these kinds of more traditional song structures — it’s just so unique and so raw. I think there’s something really exciting about that, too.
[At one] point, I had a crappy car, an older car that had a tape player in it. I had Neil Young’s Harvest on tape. I think there’s something about the tape format for really getting into a whole record, hearing the whole record. Because then it flips over, you can kind of listen to it on a loop, repeatedly. Especially in cars, when cars had tape players. I’m the kind of person that would just have like five tapes in the car. One tape was usually on for a whole month. So wherever you went, you just kind of heard it on repeat the whole time.
So I think that was really important. Just staying on forever in my car, until a record became internalized. I was like, ‘I love Neil Young.’ I never thought that was going to happen, but it definitely happened, right around having that record on. I’m thankful for that old Toyota Camry.
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