What makes Cloud Nothings such an interesting band to follow is their commitment and penchant to grow almost exponentially on each subsequent release. The band’s first, self-titled record came out in 2011 as the epitome of the under-produced bratty pop-punk that resembled early Green Day that was on the rise back then, along with bands like Wavves. The second album, Attack On Memory, was heralded as a step up creatively and sonically, as the band dabbled in noise-rock, accompanied by the raw production of esteemed producer/musician Steve Albini. Albini’s involvement dominated the narrative behind Cloud Nothings’ breakout album, which still retained memorable pop melodies at parts, but was dominated by a definite squalor that overtook the record.
Here and Nowhere Else, the bands third record, reveals that Albini’s work only served as a small piece of what helped take the band’s music in a markedly different direction. Dylan Baldi has proven himself to be more than an apt songwriter, and his growth and experience makes Here and Nowhere Else a marked improvement over Attack on Memory, the same way that record built on the first one. Gone is the messy squeal of the last record, and in its place is a band finding their way through taut and controlled songs.
Another aspect of these tracks, one that may weigh heaviest on the band’s improvement, is the way Baldi controls his singing. The vocals on Attack On Memory were arguably it’s weakest piece, with Baldi’s nasally screaming turning off many. This time around, he shows restraint, exploring the relatively deeper and fuller sound of his vocal range, which makes moments like the bellowing screams on “No Thoughts” all the more powerful.
Beyond the improvement in the crafting of melodies, there are a good amount of interesting musical ideas that are explored here as well. The abrupt tempo change of “Psychic Trauma” is a high point on the album, a tricky and rewarding tool to use that pays off well for the band. “Pattern Walks” also serves as a response to the 9 minute jam “Wasted Days” from the last album, and proves that while the band may have toned down the noise, the members haven’t lost a step when it comes to just rocking out on a song.
The cathartic release towards the end of the album leads right into its best moment, album closer and lead single “I’m Not Part Of Me.” While it may not have the millennial sense of unease and nervousness of earlier single “Stay Useless,” it stands out as the best song Cloud Nothings has made to date. The lyrics of the song, and the album in general, find Baldi coming to term with maturing as he enters his mid-20s, coming to terms with growing up and learning how to be present. The track contains the band building catchy melody upon catchy melody that lead to a rousing chorus. The song finds the band reconciling the separate desires to write catchy pop tunes while also crafting heavy, noise-filled punk.
Here and Nowhere Else succeeds because Cloud Nothings have become assured in their sound and embrace the blend between the two seemingly opposing styles they work with. Even if the band cannot sustain the rate of growth between records that it is currently working at, it has delivered a confident and engrossing piece of work with their latest album.