Cloud Nothings

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Cloud Nothings (2011), 6/10
Attack On Memory (2012), 7/10
Here and Nowhere Else (2014), 6/10 (mini)
Life Without Sound (2017), 4/10
Last Building Burning (2018), 6/10
The Black Hole Understands (2020), 4/10
Life Is Only One Event (2020), 4/10
The Shadow I Remember (2021), 4.5/10

Cleveland's Cloud Nothings, the project started by Dylan Baldi when he was still a teenager, delivered yet another dose of lo-fi bedroom emo-pop (as if the world had not had enough) on Cloud Nothings (2011), notably "Understand At All" and "All the Time", although "Forget You All the Time" and "Should Have" belonged to a more profound lyrical vein.

Attack On Memory (Carpark, 2012), produced by Steve Albini, was a different beast: a parade of agonizing dirges with lethal guitars, like a rousing singer-songwriter of the 1970s fronting a punk band of the 1980s to sing about the mood of the Great Recession. The catatonic depressed anti-anthem No Future No Past works as an overture for the rocking howled anthem Wasted Days, a powerful existential rant that mixes guitar counterpoint reminiscent of Television and stuttering riffs that sound almost ska (and boasts a galactic instrumental intermezzo that evokes a more virulent version of Built To Spill). The compromise between violence and pathos, noise and melody, at which they excel yields Fall In, a burst of cow-punk that could be a garage Green Day gem, and the lightnign-speed instrumental Separation, a cross between surf music of the 1960s and industrial rock of the 1980s. The rest is wildly inferior to these terrific songs. The tone is alternatively vulnerable (Stay Useless and Cut You) and menacing (the slow doom-y No Sentiment). Needless to say, one is entitled to suspect that this is really an Albini album under disguise; i.e. that, in the age of revivals, Steve Albini just staged a self-revival.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Ferdinando Vella)

I Cloud Nothings di Cleveland, il progetto musicale inaugurato da Dylan Baldi quando era ancora adolescente, hanno confezionato le ennesime dosi di emo-pop lo-fi da stanzetta (come se il mondo non ne avesse abbastanza) su Cloud Nothings (Carpark, 2011), in particolare Understand at All e All the Time, benché lo spirito di Forget You All the Time e Should Have sia più profondo e lirico.


Attack On Memory (Carpark, 2012), prodotto da Steve Albini, è tutta un’altra storia: una rassegna di angosciosi lamenti funebri dalle chitarre micidiali. Come se un trascinante cantautore degli anni ’70, alla guida di una punk band anni ’80, cantasse lo stato d’animo  della Grande Depressione. No Future No Past, anti-anthem catatonicamente depresso, funge da overture per un rock anthem urlato come Wasted Days, potente imprecazione esistenziale che mescola contrappunti chitarristici che evocano i Television con balbettanti riff quasi ska (ed esplodono in uno spaziale intermezzo strumentale, i Built To Spill in una versione più travolgente).  I risultati migliori del compromesso tra violenza e pathos, rumore e melodia, vengono raggiunti con Fall In, una tale esplosione cow-punk che potrebbe essere una perla garage dei migliori Green Day, e con la strumentale e velocissima Separation, un incrocio tra la surf music degli anni ’60 e il rock industriale anni ’80. Il resto è di gran lunga inferiore rispetto a questi brani straordinari. Il timbro è a tratti debole (Stay Useless e Cut You), a tratti minaccioso (la lenta e tragica No Sentiment). Inutile dirlo, si potrebbe sospettare che si tratti in realtà di un album di Steve Albini sotto mentite spoglie; ovvero che egli, nell’era del revival, abbia inscenato il revival di sé stesso.

The mini-album Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark, 2014) seems to make a big deal of new drummer Jayson Gerycz as his propulsive contribution is constantly in the foreground. Admittedly, the ferociously percussive Quieter Today depends a lot on him. But the other (and main) show is how the band creates songs that build up to a climax, rather than cycling around a center. The tension rises to a rousing refrain (Giving Into Seeing) or a beastly scream (No Thoughts) or to sheer melodrama (Just See Fear). There are also different structures at work in Psychic Trauma (basically, an accelerated version of a Nirvana-esque power-ballad), I'm Not Part of Me (basically a grittier versoin of Green Day's power-ballads) and in the seven-minute Pattern Walks, the second half of which is a pop novelty.

Cloud Nothings, now a quartet with the addition of a second guitarist, greatly simplified their sound on Life Without Sound (Carpark, 2017). Other than Up to the Surface, which sounds like a heavy-metal version of the Byrds, and a mediocre Green Day imitation (Enter Entirely), there is little to listen to.

The punk attack of Last Building Burning (2018), a furious album drenched in fuzz noise (produced by Randall Dunn), restored their credentials. The eleven-minute Dissolution is the high point: a frenzied quasi-punk rant turns into a subdued dissonant acid jam a` la Grateful Dead's Dark Star, with psychedelic guitar feedback coupled with free-jazz drumming, and then launches in a hysterical locomotive-motorik beat with the singer screaming like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. On An Edge is a slab of emo-core and noise-rock with a metal-pop guitar riff. The poppy element prevails in Leave Him Now, but still derailed by distorted guitar riffs, and in Another Way Of Life, the Green Day imitation du jour. Much better is the way the catchy melody is employed in the drunk punk-pop of In Shame and in the less punkish but more ominous Offer An End. Too bad that the other three songs are so disposable.

The Black Hole Understands (2020) was an inept return to the lame power-pop of Life Without Sound with ditties like Story That I Live and The Mess is Permanent. Life Is Only One Event (2020) collects leftovers from the sessions of The Black Hole Understands.

It is hard to tell that The Shadow I Remember (2021) was produced again by Steve Albini. The bursts of guitar noise and the angular rhythms cannot hide the fact that the songs are trivial (Only Light, Open Rain), bordering on the awful (the female backing vocals of Nothing Without You). The audio anarchy is effective only in The Spirit Of, by far the most vibrant song. Thankfully it's a short album (eleven songs for 32 minutes).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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