Review Summary: The best kind of angst
Like all great angsty rock music, Cloud Nothings’ new album finds just the right balance of hooks and shouting, anger and catchiness, fun and catharsis. The trio, lead by singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi, hails from Cleveland, Ohio. In 2012, they broke into the open with the release of Attack on Memory, an album that landed on a number of best of the year lists. Formerly a power-pop band, Attack on Memory marked a departure in their sound, as they moved into heavier and punkier territory.
Their new album, Here and Nowhere Else, continues that transition. Clocking in at a blistering 32 minutes, Here and Nowhere Else is barely longer than an EP, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for with aggression and energy, its brief running time filled with nothing but fast, catchy, dirty, indie rock. Backed by blown out, raw production, Cloud Nothings launch into track after track of assertively catchy songs. The album almost sounds like a live recording, with Baldi’s vocals a bit buried in the mix, his lyrics often obscured under layers of churning guitars, his voice recorded in such a way that it sounds like he’s breaking the mic, each shouted chorus throwing off bursts of distortion.
Being so short, Here and Nowhere Else is easily consumed as a whole. The opener, “Now Here In,” one of the strongest songs on the album, bursts forth with an amazing energy and intensity, pulling you in with one of the album’s best hooks (see also: “I'm Not Part Of Me,” “No Thoughts”) and setting the stage for the next half-hour of music. The only breathing space on the album is the third track, “Psychic Trauma,” which starts off slower, seemingly a respite from the intensity of the first two songs. However, the relief is short lived--right as the chorus starts, the song explodes, and continues at this same frantic pace through the noise of its finish, where drummer Jayson Gerycz goes, for lack of a better word, nuts. Gerycz is one of the highlights of the album, his fevered drumming driving every song forward beneath the raging, distorted guitars.
Perhaps the highlight of the album is the penultimate track, the seven-and-half minute “Pattern Walks,” which follows in the footsteps of Interpol’s “PDA” and the Pixies “No. 13 Baby,” tracks propelled from the rank of “good” to “amazing” by their extended outros. While Gerycz continues to hammer away at the drums, the guitars in last the last two minutes of the song take on an almost ethereal quality, with Baldi’s vocals echoing over each other, turning into a repeating chain of “I thought. I thought. I thought.” These parts keep building on top of one another, each second more frenzied than the last, bringing the song to a mesmerizing, cathartic end, one that could almost be described as haunting.
There isn’t really anything that doesn’t work on Here and Nowhere Else--all the songs are at the very least solid and catchy. However, it can’t be said that it’s a particularly ambitious work, consisting of basically the same mix of noisy guitar, bass and drums. It’s more of an expansion of their previous album--all the things that worked on Attack On Memory have been refined and taken up a notch. Here and Nowhere Else is catchier, rawer, and more energetic, their overall sound tweaked to ragged perfection. This isn’t a timeless record, but if you’re looking for some catchy and trashy indie rock a la Japandroids, this will absolutely hit the spot and one can only imagine the live sound emulated on the album will only be better, well, live.