Producer John Congleton may have out-Albini’d Steve Albini on Cloud Nothings’ fourth (and best) album, Here And Nowhere Else. Compared to 2012’s Attack On Memory, Here… is a stripped-down, but not necessarily cleaned-up, punk album that finally puts frontman Dylan Baldi in the right light.
Part of the explanation for Cloud Nothings’ decidedly noisier sound comes from the departure of guitarist Joe Boyer. Songs sound one hell of a lot tighter—in that mid-00’s emo sort of spastic way—with Bardi’s guitar covering all bases, moving between detuned riffs and screaching lead lines. The paring down is an important part of what makes Here And Nowhere Else such a breath of fresh air. The few production hooks thrown in by Congleton are smart, but for the most part the production is happy to sit solely in the mix, where drummer Jayson Gerycz punches through and keeps things moving at a breakneck speed.
Cloud Nothings’ evolution into a genuinely clever band is a fascinating one—first as the multi-instrumental power-pop recording output of Dylan Bardi, and later as an exciting but growing-pains-plagued foursome. Bardi’s conflict—between writing loud, angry, pent-up loner rock and hook-heavy melodies—comes to a head early in Here And Nowhere Else, but for the fourth time around this is finally a welcome battle to listen to. Comparatively less sugar-coated than Attack On Memory, their album lends itself to a sort of furious expectency. The one-two outro punch of “Pattern Walks” and “I’m Not Part Of Me” is a heavy, balled-fists victory lap of tidal vocal refrains and post-album manifestos.
It’s with great pleasure that Cloud Nothings have finally stopped being a little silly, a little out-of-place, with shoes a little too large for their feet. Here And Nowhere Else is without a doubt an excellent record that rekindles the sort of don’t-like-anything-or-anyone pessimism bands like Jawbreaker demonstrated so aptly. Here… is a someone-finally-gets-me album for orphaned kids and angry students. The level of polish from Congleton is to be expected, but its tenacity and respect to the three-piece-band sound is something to be admired in this day and age; eager fans will go see Cloud Nothings live and get exactly what they’ve heard on wax, and for the first time in a long time that’s an exciting and powerful prospect.