Review Summary: Cloud Nothings’ highly anticipated fourth album is yet another stark, impassioned effort, but it fails to deliver many discernible dynamics.
When Cloud Nothings released the fantastic Attack on Memory
in 2012, it seemed like they were on the cusp of becoming the new poster child of forthright, angst-ridden indie rock. Their punk energy, combined with Dylan Baldi’s desire to expand his musical horizon made songs like “Wasted Days” incredibly electrifying. So, when the band hit the studio for their follow-up record, there was little doubt that they would present their eager listeners with a stark exhibition of pulse-pounding vitality and humanity. However, on Here and Nowhere Else
, Cloud Nothings seem to have relinquished much of the creativity that made their previous album sound so fresh.
The biggest ingredient missing from Here and Nowhere Else
is dynamics. From front to back there isn’t much variety in melody, tempo, and instrumentation. The first two tracks, for instance, coast along at essentially the same speed. “Now Hear In” provides a rather underwhelming introduction to the album, though “Quieter Today” inserts a bit more intensity into the mix. However, melodically and sonically, it falls from the same tree. It all sounds uniform, but it ultimately feels like traversing a plateau. Baldi and his bandmates do sound more confident than ever, successfully offering a performance that is tight and focused. Having said that, this apparent complacency yields predictability.
The record’s homogeny is a double-edged sword, one side demonstrating consistency and the other exhibiting somewhat lackluster composition. Unfortunately, the lackluster side cuts deeper. The closest Cloud Nothings come to breaking their pattern of short bursts of vehemence comes with “Pattern Walks”. This track wanders into more dissonant territory with ear-piercing feedback and distortion. It’s an interesting diversion for sure. Though Baldi clearly knows how to write decent hooks, he doesn't quite create songs that are memorable or powerful enough to carry this album. What carries the album is the phenomenal drumming of Jayson Gerycz. His exciting fills on “Giving Into Seeing” breathe new life into the remainder of Here and Nowhere Else
The final three tracks are the album’s high point. Though the album as a whole struggles to deliver bona fide showstoppers, the anthemic blaze of “No Thoughts” and “I’m Not Part of Me” is fun to latch onto. Baldi’s raw, somewhat nasally vocals still work well within the context of the band’s punk display. His lyrics don’t demand much care and attention, yet his more explosive temperament conveys the album’s mood anyway. While the bland first half of the album dissolves the overall reach of Baldi’s songwriting, the second half provides much more to chew on and absorb.
When all is said and done, Here and Nowhere Else
does house a few decent songs. It’s only really marred by its own lack of ambition. Coming off the heels of Attack on Memory
, it simply does not sound like the band has progressed much sonically, even though slow-burning tracks like “No Future/No Past” intimated that a breakthrough was around the corner. None of the tracks on here really give that impression. Regardless, this record is very earnest and authentic - something that can always be expected from Cloud Nothings.
I’m Not Part of Me
Giving Into Seeing