By Will Richards
Dylan Baldi said he could never write another album as fast as 2014’s Here And Nowhere Else. That album saw Cloud Nothings embrace life as a fast and frenetic punk three-piece, unrelenting across its eight lightning quick tracks.
Enlisting guitarist, Chris Brown for fifth album Life Without Sound, Baldi has crafted himself a more traditional rock band. If they were The Ramones across ‘Here…’, now they’re closer to Pavement, or Built To Spill. Hell, the intro to first single ‘Modern Act’ even has a Smiths air about it.
This widescreen approach doesn’t detract from Baldi’s unwavering ability to create some of indie-rock’s most infectious melodies. ‘Things Are Right With You’ is one of the most hook-laden Cloud Nothings songs yet, and the album’s standout. Baldi’s yells have turned to some actually-very-good singing, and when he sings “I wasn’t comfortable with me,” it’s coming from a much calmer, more balanced man.
It isn’t a blanket change though – ‘Darkened Rings’ is vicious, and harks back to the band’s past, and closer ‘Realize My Fate’ is a pummelling, sludgy trip that finishes the album with a cacophony of noise, leaving the balance and consideration of the rest of the record behind.
‘Enter Entirely’ is the most summative example of the melting pot of styles that Life Without Sound employs. A chugging verse gives way to a chorus that, within seconds, provides both the record’s most jarring and sweetest moments. A minor key, Nirvana-esque yelp of the guitar gives way to the sweetest of vocal melodies, with every part of the band’s growing repertoire showcased. Cloud Nothings’ entire existence, from the band’s beginnings as Baldi’s lo-fi solo project, through to the punch and bite of Here And Nowhere Else comes together here for ten or so seconds.
If Here And Nowhere Else saw Cloud Nothings forcibly breaking out of a monotonous routine, Life Without Sound is the band finding themselves in a fresh, more considered world, and opening themselves up to a whole new future. H&NE predecessor had no thoughts of its follow-up, and was so wild it almost scorched the earth. Seeing ‘Life Without Sound’ as an opportunity to revamp their sound after making it through such a breakneck journey, Baldi and co manage to channel all of the album’s energy and infectious noise pop into a new album that has a greater peripheral vision, more compassion, and more ability to connect.
The immediacy and pace of the band’s past output was infectious, but in developing and moving towards a sonically fuller, more composed sound, Cloud Nothings have become universal.