Up until recently, Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings could do whatever they wanted. From the band’s meager beginnings of Dylan Baldi self-recording as a one-man operation in a basement, to 2012’s astonishing Steve Albini-produced Attack On Memory, the band always had enough space for its brand of batshit pop-punk to flash its fangs without much regard for hype or expectation. But now, with Attack On Memory making the band a breakthrough act, the anticipation for the next release has been significantly heightened, and the band now faces its truest test yet: the much-anticipated follow-up.
Cloud Nothings (singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi, drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist TJ Duke) have set out to meet those expectations head-on with their third proper full-length, Here And Nowhere Else. Recorded in just a week’s time and produced by John Congleton, the album marks the first time the band has recorded together as a three-piece. But hearing Here And Nowhere Else, you’d never know anything had been altered since their last outing.
The entirety of the album is spent in the fast lane—perhaps a reflection of Baldi writing the songs while touring relentlessly for a year and a half, penning each song in a different city. The result is a fast-paced, convulsive collection that has all the intensity of its predecessor but with an elevated dose of urgency. While tracks on Attack On Memory sometimes had the luxury of meandering and brooding, the songs on Here And Nowhere Else sound like there isn’t time for that. Instead, the album sounds like time is running the fuck out. Each track contains a powerful level of immediacy, hurling forward as if shot out of a cannon. With Baldi’s ferocious, throat-shredding vocals, Gerycz’s spastic and sophisticated drumming and Duke’s hammering bass lines anchoring Baldi’s frantic, uncoiling guitarwork, Cloud Nothings chug through songs as though their lives depended on it.
While the songs might not feel as instantly accessible as those on Attack On Memory, the hooks are still omnipresent, and the band’s amplified exigency on Here And Nowhere Else only perpetuates them. From the time-signature shifts of “Psychic Trauma” to the anthemic chorus of “I’m Not Part of Me” to the fluctuating, thrusting noisescapes of “Pattern Walks,” the album takes all of the talent and craft cultivated from Attack On Memory and pairs it with even more melody-minded mannerisms. For all the hard-hitting arrangements and thrashing instrumentation taking place on an album clocking in at just over a half hour, the songs still take the time to rope you in with ease and poise.
If Cloud Nothings’ excellent follow-up tells us anything, it’s that the band can hold its own. In the uphill battle of balancing success, artistic vision and mounting pressures, the trio could’ve fallen flat with a follow-up to a critically acclaimed masterwork—but they didn’t. Instead, with Here And Nowhere Else, they’ve thrown the first punch, and it hits you square in the jaw.