Dylan Baldi, the 19-year-old behind Cloud Nothings, is obsessed with 80’s UK indie bands, so much so that, like his US contemporaries The Drums, it’s hard not to hear the influences in his work. Unlike The Drums though, Baldi’s output is far less twee and draws on elements of scuzz-rock to create the youthful pop-punk sound of Cloud Nothings. But, unsurprisingly, while his debut does offer something new from the crossover of genres isn’t the flawless work of pure energy that you’d like it to be.
Things start off well, as opener ‘Understand At All’ powers through two and a half minutes with dirty guitar riffs and the raw, slightly unusual voice – think of an American, occasionally effeminate Kyle Falconer – of Baldi slicing through and blending seamlessly into ‘Not Important’, a track equally as energetic and captivating. Baldi’s work doesn’t just cover the riotous and urgent: ‘Forget You All The Time’ captures Baldi’s more emotionally engaging side and it has a melody that proves Cloud Nothings aren’t just about frenetic guitar-strumming and uproarious wailing: this track in particular proves that Baldi has a lot in common with bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which can only be a good thing.
The problem with this album is that unique ideas are a little thin on the ground: perhaps placing ‘Understand At All’ as an opener was a bad idea as you think that the whole album will be as stunning and arresting as that little pop-punk gem, only to find that it’s probably the best track on the whole album. The idea of crossing the 80s indie vibe with nuggets of bands like Hüsker Dü is great for the first few tracks, but then slightly grates and erodes your resistance down after a little while. A first listen reaps good rewards, but after multiple plays Cloud Nothings becomes a little bit stale and the novelty of Baldi’s idea completely wears off.
While Cloud Nothings does have genuinely great moments, it’s certainly not groundbreaking and can be hard work at times. It’s a shame because Baldi showed a lot of promise on earlier demos and a recent EP, but that initial feeling that there’s something special about Cloud Nothings ebbs away with each passing track.
Cloud Nothings is released on 25th January on the Wichita label. You can check out ‘Understand At All’ below.