Cloud Nothings present the refined joys of Life Without Sound

Life Without SoundIn a cynical world, full of posturing, manoeuvring and mendaciousness, thank whatever higher power it is to which you subscribe for the innocent joys of Cloud Nothings. Call them a throwback, call them primitive, call them what you will – if you can’t find space in your heart for this kind of raw, joyful and honest music, then you may as well not bother with going to the doctor, for you are already dead inside.

As simple as the joys that deliver can be, though, you could never fairly write them off as an unsophisticated or uncultured band. From their fuzzy, lo-fi beginnings as Dylan Baldi’s bedroom project to the punk bombast and confidence of Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings have thrown themselves repeatedly, in four-minute blasts, at a clearly defined target, seeking perfection within the pop punk (call it what you like if you don’t like that tag) parameters set both by themselves and decades’ worth of forebears – from The Wipers to Hüsker Dü to Weezer, to pick a random (albeit curated for credibility) selection. What are those parameters? It’s got to have a hook, it’s got to have a story, it’s got to have feeling, you’ve got to be able to jump about to it, it’s got to be immediate, and - this one is more particular to our current field of study - it can never seem like you’re trying too hard, which can take a lot of work in itself.

If you can admire the grandiose ambitions of the Bon Ivers, Beyoncés or The xxs of this world, whether or not they speak to you personally, then you might also doff a cap to this rather less celebrated corner of the musical spectrum. It is equally a form of popular music, albeit one which speaks to the smaller corner of those alienated by the stylings of the aforementioned luminaries.

In the seven or eight years (Jesus!) Cloud Nothings have been in the world’s purview, they’ve done a fucking good job of speaking to their corner, trying with indefatigable vigour to get that formula just right, and coming pretty damn close. Of course, the best part of a decade can very well be a lifetime in music, particularly considering Baldi started doing what he was doing as a teenager (he’s only 25 now, mind you). One can expect not only the evolution that comes from being old warhorses of popular music but also that which comes from growing in maturity as songwriters and human beans.

Mapping such a trajectory with Cloud Nothings is by no means simple. For one thing, there’s the purity of vision which lends itself to a certain consistency. Then accounting for the rawness of Here and Nowhere Else in such a narrative would certainly be a challenge. Life Without Sound, however, is significantly easier to shoehorn into a curve. While it sticks to the formula, more or less, it displays one of the clearest demarcations of maturity known to humankind: a loss of energy, in the place of which we see something you might call refinement.

Lead single “Modern Act” is the strongest piece on the LP: catchy, melodic, lively. But there’s something not quite right about it, and that thing is polish taking the high ground from passion – a creating the very real risk of sounding like a bloody boy band. “Internal World”, with its refrain of “I’m not the one who’s always right,” or the backing harmony on “Sight Unseen” compound this worry. And it’s the production too – all of the snarl and rough edges that contributed so much of the feeling to the band’s oeuvre seem to be lost, with the result being something that equates to detachment, be it genuine or only apparent.

You’ve got to give them the benefit of the doubt, mind you. Throw yourself around too much, and at some point, you’re going end up falling on the floor. No doubt, they’ll be picking themselves up and flinging themselves around again in the not-too-distant future. And for the meanwhile, maybe those put out by the punk stylings of the last record may well find a home for themselves in the safer confines of Life Without Sound.

Release: 27th January 2017, Wichita Recordings

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