Less than a year after their last visit, American indie rockers Cloud Nothings land back in the Button Factory for another round of energetic noise-making shot through with catchy pop flavours.
The latest release from the three piece – ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ – takes plenty of unexpected twists and turns, incorporating a weird balance of tightly polished indie pop and an unlikely scuzzyness, but their static live show left a lot of these elements aside to concentrate on a stripped back rock aesthetic that bordered on grunge.
Some bands flourish under restrictions, and come into their own under the demands of replicating on stage what they did in a studio (with oodles of time and the opportunity to polish over any gaps with some shiny effects or another guitar part). Not so here. In the case of Cloud Nothing there is a definite disparity between the band live and on the record.
In place of a more nuanced and over-produced depth, frontman Dylan Baldi drives in a dump truck of raw sound; one that is basic, uncomplicated and at times borders on boring. There are definite moments – most obviously on the newer numbers like Quieter Today or Psychic Trauma – that feel like a half-hearted repetition of things they’d already done once or twice by that point.
Likewise I’m Not Part of Me sounds like it was written by a punk band with nothing to be angry about, or maybe by the Strokes on an off day. The right pieces are all there, but somehow the band just can’t get them to fit together just right.
But then there are the times that everything lines up right for Cloud Nothings, and suddenly it all makes sense. Fall In gets a looser and louder rendition than the recorded version, with Baldi finally vacating the one spot he’s been standing in the entire night to play a solo that flows though the Button Factory like pure, chaotic improvisation. Even if it’s a rehearsed moment (and it almost certainly was) it breathes a bit of life into a flagging show.
This leads into an instrumental jam that sees Could Nothings showing what they are capable of in a live environment, wailing away ceaselessly at their instrumentals to build up a huge swell of loud noise, spiralling through numerous sudden changes and just enough slow breakdowns to let the songs take a breath before launching into the next frantic onslaught of sound.
It’s no surprise then that the band encore with the anthem of apathy that is Wasted Days. The monster of a track rolls on here for at least fifteen minutes, breaking down into almost nothing before the chorus crashes back in like a tidal wave. Baldi screams the raging chorus of “I thought I would be more than this” with so much edge that, done night after night, we’re sure is certain to damage vocal chords.
At their best Cloud Nothings can rock out with the best of them. At their worst they are just indie kids who wish they were grungers. Their live show manages to capture both of these elements.