To think that Cloud Nothings gained popularity through a couple of GarageBand recordings. The band, which first gained traction through Myspace, began as Dylan Baldi’s baby, created in the spirit of youthful punk rock in his parent’s basement. Comprised of Baldi as lead vocalist and guitarist, TJ Duke (bass) and Jayson Gerycz (drums), the band has come to embrace their own variation of rock, supplemented at great length by the rage and rebellion previously encapsulated by Generation X bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Their new album, Here and Nowhere Else, adopts a dark angst and bitchiness that seems increasingly grunge and a lot less indie.
Cloud Nothings has changed a lot. Their first album, Cloud Nothings, is pure indie at its finest. Elevated with chipper songs like “Nothing’s Wrong” (although there is certainly an irony there) and “Understand At All,” the album is catchy, delicious pop fodder. And it works. Their next album, Attack on Memory, which came out only a year later in 2012, is significantly more edgy and glum. If anything, the dramatic changes in tone from the already mentioned tracks to ones like “No Sentiment” that reveal the flexibility of Baldi’s vocals in terms of emotion. The previously high-pitched and charming voice so integral to the sound of Cloud Nothings becomes screechy and pained.
What was moroseness in Attack on Memory is now — in Here and Nowhere Else — indignant but cool. As Baldi sayd in “Now Here In,” “I can feel your pain, and I feel alright about it.” In general, the songs take on an emotional range that’s both intimidating and impressive. “Just See Fear” has an overwhelming, eerie sentiment, supported by a screamo bridge, but the verses and chorus hold the same distorted alternative appeal of bands like The Strokes.
It’s clear that Baldi is the songwriter. The young 20-something who started the band as a freshman in college is writing and screaming his way through the bitterness of depression, the experience of being in and traveling with a band at his age and growing up. “I’m Not Part of Me” feels like a perfect ending to the album. It still relies on a youthful noise but is clearly Baldi’s way of saying goodbye to a certain adolescent, shit-to-the-wind way of looking at life. It also serves as the new album’s parallel to Attack on Memory’s pithy, dynamic and head-banging “Stay Useless.”
Cloud Nothings has proved that it transcends the indie rock genre. Memorable and dark, Here is modern rock at its best: emotionally charged, occasionally belligerent and foaming at the mouth. Having picked up their methods of catching our attention — many songs segue into long repetitions of the same phrase over and over again (“Pattern Walks”) — the band has a confidence worth admiring. On first listen, the album can come off as plain noise, but the lyrics and rhythms tell a story of desperation and pain that can’t help but engage us.
4 out of 5 stars