A little more than a year ago, Cloud Nothings front man Dylan Baldi was cranking out a steady stream of effortless power pop gems that reeked of classic suburban boredom and earnest lo-fidelity.
On Cloud Nothings’ new self-titled release, Baldi finds himself with the double-edged resources of a studio, hindsight and ambition. The result, not surprisingly, is a sound that is different and much clearer. The heavy fog of fuzziness of Turning On has lifted to a light haze and the ambling sonics have been tightened and streamlined into a tidy punk aesthetic.
Cloud Nothings’ greatest strength has always been its ability to make pop music bratty enough that people feel cool listening to it. Baldi has a talent of layering a lyrical slap to the face on top of jangling guitars and sugary hooks, but on Cloud Nothings, the effect is brasher. The band’s easy melodies have been amped up to the frantic speed of a skipping CD track—its punkish repetitiveness giving the album a youthful vigor and the listener a mild headache.
Songs like “Heartbeat” clock in at a little over a minute and manage to repeat the same six-word chorus for at least half of that. Then there’s “Been Through,” which clings to a four-phrase repertoire that makes the song sound more like a really loud children’s tune than a punk-inspired anthem.
“Understand At All,” and “Should Have” are the redemptive tracks on the album, but even still, Cloud Nothings plays like the sonic equivalent of a merry-go-round ride—all momentum and boundless energy. This ride is fun, of course, but only in small doses.