According to Cleveland rocker Dylan Baldi himself the artwork for his new LP, Here And Nowhere Else, was rushed out last minute when demanded by the label. It’s a simple shot from his bedroom window that in the end proved quite artistic. With Baldi thus thriving on impulsive and instinctive direction and with 2012’s successful switch from pop-punk to post-hardcore in mind, Here And Nowhere Else is surprising only for being his most predictable move to date.
It’s an LP that, despite plenty of anger, feels less explosive than its predecessor Attack On Memory and one that lands somewhere between his two personae as a result. Baldi’s guitars are still turned way up, the marauding tempos still pile up too – in fact it’s an album that only lets up for the first time during the middle part of the sprawling penultimate track, “Pattern Walks”, an otherwise disorientating wall of noise similar to Attack On Memory’s “Wasted Days”. Baldi’s way with strong melodies is intact too, Here And Nowhere Else therefore offering an absorbing collection of grunge-pop fuzz in iconic producer Steve Albini’s absence.
Does this all mean Baldi hasn’t upped his game? Well, perhaps (see the disappointing “Just See Fear”), but his trademark blowouts are taken to the next level here and, along with his stronger tracks, such as the loud-quiet-loud mess “Psychic Trauma”, they provide more than satisfactory compensation. At his best when he’s at his loudest therefore tracks like the solid, near stadium-sized punk-rock closer seem to lose out in comparison to, say, the thrashed-out emo of “Giving Into Seeing” on which Baldi digs out his best Bleach-era razor gargle. And there’s no contest when it comes to “No Thoughts”, which drips with bile and armchair nihilism, its spittle-flecked, speaker-blown finale destined to be yelled straight back in his face.
Here And Nowhere Else is ultimately the sound of Baldi flying by the seat of his pants, dialing in the angst for the most part, but he’s getting away with it with sheer exuberance and momentum. Maybe that off-the-cuff artwork was part of the loosest plan in history all along.
There are great strides being made on this new record by the Cloud Nothings. The Cleveland band essentially started as the “bedroom invention” of teenager Dylan Baldi on a very lo fi debut which had some impressive moments. The whole thing ratcheted up on their sophomore album 2012’s “Attack from Memory”. Unfortunately some put this down solely to the “Albini Factor” with the famous Nirvana producer Steve Albini performing his usual studio alchemy. The evidence mounted on this new release “Here and Nowhere Else” roundly crushes that theory and shows that the Cloud Nothings could have had the late Les Dawson on the mixing desk and it would still sound wonderful.
This album is full of attacking, confrontational and in your face anthems. It is pleasing to report like their spiritual forbearers The Replacements and Husker Du, this tumult has not sucked the melody out their music. Opener “Now Here In” pounds along driven by the drums at a decent pace and Baldi’s maturing vocals. The band are in total control and avoid the mistake of a headlong rush to the finish. Songs like the powerful “Quieter Today” increase the foot on the gas, but Baldi’s pop sensibilities are ever present not least on “Physic Trauma” which does that Pixies quiet loud thing with Baldi’s vocals at one point strained to breaking point. This is taken to its logical conclusion on the post punk thrash “Giving into Seeing” easily the toughest thing on the album, like a speeded up Slint played at the wrong speed. The longest and best track on the album is “Pattern Walks” a veritable mini epic of stirring cacophony and garage rock sensibility. The whole thing is rounded off by the nice single “I’m not part of me” with its slight Ramones tinge and sing-along chanted chorus.
The Cloud Nothings have produced an album of big songs and even bigger riffs. They do not however descend into the sort of happy clappy emo rock which has spread like a virus through young American Bands over recent years. “Here and Nowhere Else” shows that Cloud Nothings are picking up the mantle of some of their classic predecessors and deserve to be taken very seriously indeed.