No Age: An Object

An Object, No Age's fourth studio album, is to Sonic Youth's Sister as the films of Rob Zombie are to the low-budget horror movies of the 1970s (like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes). Zombie's work repackages the sounds, styles and general vibe of the classic stuff. At best, his movies are effective pop pastiche; at worst, they're tired rehashes. An Object weirdly takes the Zombie route, crafting a short and arresting record that is made out of the whole cloth of Sonic Youth's 1987 masterpiece. It's not as if No Age haven't always been indebted to Sonic Youth (and the Replacements and the Buzzcocks and the Fall and many, many other trailblazing bands); it's just that they've never sounded so much like straight homage before.

The song that starts the album, "No Ground," is almost a deconstruction of what made Sister tracks like "Stereo Sanctity" or "White Cross" sizzle—staccato bursts of noise, proclamatory singing, jagged guitar. Again and again these songs, from "Defector/ed" to lead single "I Won't Be Your Generator," try to distill Sister's essence but come up short. Earlier No Age albums like Nouns were animated by a real sense of urgency, not mere referentiality.

An Object, for all of its postmodern, self-aware packaging, feels like a band running out of ideas. Still, No Age running out of ideas is still more engaging than half of the more "inspired" albums that came out this year.