Cloud Nothings have more balls than Real Estate. This, of course, seems obvious, given the components of the situation. After all, they play music that is LOUDER. They always have, and always will. So while I stand by this statement, let me temper it with the following observation: Cloud Nothings on Life without Sound emit like a band which has been doing its pop homework, and this, in case you don’t know, amounts to listening to A LOT OF Atlas.
Dylan Baldi is emerging on this album as a truly virtuosic lead singer. During caterwauling songs which careen and cavort alternately within noise rock, grunge, punk rock, basically anything but power pop (Jayson Gerycz is an equally virtuosic drummer, cementing things almost always within the “artsy”), Baldi will still weave these melodic vocal lines not un-reminiscent of Iceage’s Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, almost like embracing melody while making fun of it at the same time, as if mocking all the jingly, optimistic things we’re subject to every day which seem to cater only to dummies.
Another thing that stops Cloud Nothings from being power pop is that that guitar is just too juicy… and I don’t mean like Hi-C/Kool-Aid juicy, I mean like the juice of a deer’s flesh still dripping from it. I’m talking PJ Harvey good.
Ok, I lied. “Modern Act” is power pop. And it’s awkwardly placed, too: more ripping, glove-tight punk rock from our Cleveland faithful, but sort of climactic to follow the relatively down “Enter Entirely,” so proper and by-the-book that you almost want to turn it off, and say this album is poorly sequenced, until you realize, this is still great rock and roll. This is rock and roll in the vein of classic indie from Sonic Youth to The Arcade Fire and Calgary, Canada’s “Women.” This is music for the disaffected and displaced whitey, just like the ideal of what they talked about in the grunge documentary Hype! On “Modern Act,” a song so conventional that the band seems to have been embarrassed about it, placing it sixth when it plays like a viable track tow, one of Baldi’s better lines emerges (“I want a life / That’s all I need lately”) following other mini-vignettes like “Do you know what it’s like / To be out in the light?”, but the strongest lyric still stands as the following from “Internal World”: “I’m not the one who’s always right.”
It should perhaps be noted that Cleveland is markedly more cloudy than Chicago, at least if my hometown of South Bend, Indiana is any indication, more prone to lake-effect snow, causing annual snowfall totals to spike considerably. I don’t actually know that much about Cleveland, other than that Chrissie Hynde’s entire national emigration, and Kim Deal’s accounts of Dayton, suggest that there’s some serious sexism going on. Well, I’m glad these guys at least like Sonic Youth. That much is beyond question.