(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, March 21, 2011

CD review - Cloud Nothings, Cloud Nothings (2011)

Pop punk rises from the ashes of True Punk (tm) in the hands of bands like Green Day that understand the punk energy, but are stronger musicians and better singers than their idols. Cloud Nothings are more Blink-182 than Green Day, but the sound comes out of the Replacements and Hüsker Dü tradition.

The self-titled debut album is a studio project from Dylan Baldi, although he's pulled together a touring band to bring the sound out to audiences. Cloud Nothings is fast paced as each track leaps forward to fill any gap left from the last one, creating a seamless flow. The low fi, hook-laden songs pound through the self absorbed themes of teen angst, compounded by the band's ridiculously young sounding vocals. From sneers to hoarse shouts to sweet falsetto backing lines, Cloud Nothings sound like Teen Boys, but the chops, Baldi's strong writing, and unselfconscious attitude demand to be taken seriously.

The playing is tight with much of the power centered in the rollicking melodic bass and dynamic drumming. The guitars carry their weight, but the songs are largely bass driven.

The tightest track, Nothing's Wrong, gives a misleading sense of the album. The cheery pop bounce, tied to a classic garage rock sound is smoother and brighter than the other tracks and the vocals feature more harmony work than the other songs. Still, the roller coaster pacing and beautiful drop out on the verse openings match the energy on the rest of Cloud Nothings.

But it's the Replacements drive of Rock ("You love me, but now we're all dead") and On the Radio that hit closest to the heart of Cloud Nothings aesthetic. The touch of Hüsker Dü in the initial grind of You're Not That Good At Anything extends the sound.

Cloud Nothings make rich, expressive music that isn't locked into a simple blues recipe. Baldi's pop sense and willingness to keep songs short enough to leave some enthusiasm on the table should help them find their audience. With the right exposure, they could follow Green Day's early career path. Does that mean they have an American Idiot in their future? Time will tell. I'll sip the Kool-Aid and believe.

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