Trafficking in gnarled punk, energetic rock squalor, and frenetic aggression, Cloud Nothings make a lot of aggressive noise and certainly leave a mark on the senses. With throttled determination, their music throws itself at the listener, demanding not just attention, but your complete involvement and focus. Equally suitable to soundtrack your workout as it is appropriate to serve as a venting session for a particularly tedious day, the sounds can be loud, ornery, and in the right environment, delightfully cathartic.
Formed in 2009 as a bedroom project by Clevelander Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings came into their own with the 2012 release Attack on Memory, a no-frills tour-de-force produced by the legendary Steve Albini that was widely praised and served as a springboard to larger scale tours that brought the band to a worldwide audience. Here, again working with a famed producer-John Congleton this time- Baldi and Co. have returned with a taut eight-song set that drives forth with even more amped-up raucous energy, largely due to the ferocious drumming of Jason Gerycz, who pounds the low end as if the recording studio is falling apart around the band. Seriously, his propulsions are pretty ridiculous- the energy wrought on tracks like, “Quieter Today”, and “Giving Into Seeing” nearly forces the songs into complete overdrive. Whereas the sound of Attack on Memory pulled back and eased up on the pedals at times, here, the band throw out all caution and go straight forward in a breakneck flurry of amped-up revelry.
It’s all truly a blistering listen and one that slinks by at a brisk and torrid pace. Something is missing, though as Here And Nowhere Else fizzles a bit in its’ overall presentation. Despite the similarity in subject matter and lyrical outlook (aimlessness, frustration, and ennui) these new songs lack much of the spunkiness, jangle, and most importantly, the melody that made the previous ones such interesting and curious listens. Attack On Memory still offers unique wrinkles of surprise with each listen. This new album, while more immediate and in-the-moment, lacks the repeated payoff one hopes to experience over the course of multiple spins. It has traded some of that lived-in character for something a tad less exciting, and something that at times dangles perilously close to the Blink-182 and Paramore styling of punk rock, a territory in which Cloud Nothings have previously established they do not belong.
As chief songwriter and the undisputed leader of the band, Dylan Baldi puts some weighty thoughts into his frantic soundscapes, tackling existential big-picture feelings like it’s a long-overdue session with the therapist. It still happens here-lines like “I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else/How to focus on what I do myself” don’t emanate from someone who lacks the art of introspection-but perhaps had Baldi chosen to tone down the tempo and intensity a notch of two, these types of sentiments could have a chance to resonate.
In a recent interview, Baldi expressed his vision for Here And Nowhere Else: “I think I was trying to accomplish the same thing musically with every song on the record. I wanted to have complex guitar parts that didn’t sound complex but sounded easy to play. I wanted to have the drummer just go crazy and have everything mixed together in a way that it sounds like chaos but it’s not.”
His desired intent has certainly come to fruition. The jury is still out though on whether Cloud Nothings should continue down this thrash-rock road. At 22, Baldi is under no pressure to settle for a sound, nor should he be. It perhaps seems, though, like this may be one step back in the journey towards creative and musical identity.