Release Date: Oct 19, 2018
Record label: Carpark Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Cloud Nothings took a lot of people by surprise with their 2017 album, Life Without Sound. A cleaner, studio-friendly concoction, it was downright soft and tuneful compared with the work that had made them such underground darlings. It is hard, therefore, not to see the opener of this record, "On an Edge," as some kind of statement. The most pummelling, blisteringly fast three minutes of their recorded career to date, it heavily redresses the balance and sets up Last Building Burning as a major return to form.
You know, I might just order my ticket for the Cloud Nothings gig. It'll be a risky decision, given that I'll have to wake up at 5 AM the next morning, and I'll be back by midnight at the very least. No big deal. Cleveland's ambassadors of angst tend to encourage reckless promises. Barring a few ….
Over the years, Cloud Nothings have collaborated with different producers to dive into different sides of their music. Respectively, Steve Albini and John Congleton emphasized the band's rough edges on Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else, while John Goodmanson cleaned them up slightly on Life Without Sound. For their fifth album, Cloud Nothings recruited Randall Dunn, known for his work with Sunn O))) among other righteously heavy acts.
Cloud Nothings have always been a band who have teetered between the push-and-pull of the loud and quiet, playing with pop melodies against more abrasive guitar instrumentation. Their last album 'Life Without Sound' was a record that was nestled into the softer, lo-fi ends of the spectrum, gearing away from the more amplified nature of 'Here and Nowhere Else'. With 'Last Building Burning', however, they have returned to their visceral and louder roots but in a slightly different way.
On their last album, 2017's Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings dialed back the rage and softened their bite. It's not as if they went full R.E.M. circa Around the Sun or anything; it still delivered the riffs, and frontman Dylan Baldi's songwriting was typically sharp, but the performances were strangely flat compared to its feverish predecessors. Where the guitars previously would have erupted, they merely preened and sparkled.
The Lowdown: Cloud Nothings have always been exceptionally skilled at combining punchy pop-punk melodies with blistering noise rock over their decade-long career. The delicate balance they strike between these two styles is their calling card, and the push and pull is invigorating to watch. Whereas last year's Life Without Sound found frontman Dylan Baldi and the rest of the band exploring some of their brightest melodies in years, Last Building Burning pulls back towards urgent cacophony.
There's a lot to unpack in Cloud Nothings' singer Dylan Baldi saying he wanted to "capture the energy of the moment" on Last Building Burning. A shift from Life Without Sound in terms of aesthetic, Burning trades studio decency for unfiltered flesh. The band recorded the album in only eight days. Earnestness doesn't sleep.
No matter how they vary their sound Cleveland's Cloud Nothings always deliver. I'll be the first to admit I'm a fan of their more boisterous nature, but even when they tamed things down on 2017's Life Without Sound, it was so technically solid (melodic indie-rock) that there wasn't much to criticise. They went for a more mainstream, accessible sound but pulled it off pretty well, but still with their sonic stamp.