Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning

by Tim Sentz Rating:6 Release Date:2018-10-19
Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning
Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning

Dylan Baldi created Cloud Nothings in his basement in 2009. Back then, it was just a noise-pop one-man show, and all of his twee-pop notions were smothered in lo-fi making it hard to enjoy all of it, but once you did find something – like “Leave You Forever” – that showed off Baldi’s vocal talents, it became easier to love the Cloud Nothings project.

Baldi has shown that he refuses to be stagnant across Cloud Nothings’ output, hence why no two records have really sounded that much alike. The self-titled debut Cloud Nothings back in 2011 was a bizarre showing when you look back on where he’s taken the band since. Expanding to a four-piece, Baldi reinvented Cloud Nothings on their stellar Attack on Memory, and its excellent follow-up Here and Nowhere Else – a lot of that coming from the inclusion of Steve Albini as the producer. Albini has a knack for refining rock acts to perfection, and this was achieved on both records.

Both records showed a transition to a more post-hardcore sound, like Titus Andronicus, Fucked Up, Pissed Jeans – while still trying to stay steeped in the emo/punk world that they’d been so closely aligned with before. Last year’s misfire Life Without Sound took the band a step back and attempted a safer record, with softer edges and Baldi taking a more direct approach to his singing. The results were unfortunate.  Sound muddied the reputation Baldi had built – a necessary diversion for himself, but a tragedy for the band overall. With Last Building Burning coming under two years later, it’s no surprise that Baldi has reverted back to his old ways.

Last Building Burning isn’t the greatest Cloud Nothings record. It has all of the makings of one, and in most areas, it tries to achieve this goal, but ultimately falls flat. On opener “On An Edge,” Baldi spits unintelligible vitriol – all raspy and snarly – but recycling Attack on Memory riffs. Baldi still has a knack for a hook driven chorus, and “Leave Him Now” has just that, making it a nice break after the blisters left by “On An Edge.” His vocals are still 50/50, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes irritating – like when he tries to change pitches. He still keeps the dynamic of singing/screaming, while still throwing out the mush-mouth verses too.

“In Shame” is a standard rocker, with consistent drumming and a solid guitar line. The problem with most of these songs is that Baldi doesn’t seem all that concerned with taking them anywhere. Last Building Burning seems rushed at times, and the other times it’s just another Cloud Nothings record – a sentiment that at one point sounded like a positive, but now it’s more of a ho-hum. “Offer an End” and “The Echo of the World” are serviceable Cloud Nothings tracks that resemble his work off of his two best albums but are gone and forgotten quickly. Again, not bad tracks, just standard cuts by Baldi at this point and get buried in an album full of half-hearted ideas.

The biggest problem with Last Building Burning is in its shameless copying of Cloud Nothings past attempts. “Dissolution” brings back the meandering long track that Baldi started with Attack on Memory’s wonderful “Wasted Days” and then again with “Pattern Walks” off of Here and Nowhere Else. But this time, “Dissolution” is just a nearly 3-minute song – with most of it at the beginning, and the last quarter chopped off to make room for a 6-7-minute jam session that’s nowhere close to being as gigantic or profound as those already mentioned. It’s a puzzling inclusion, here seeming more like a way to stretch the record beyond EP length. 

“So Right So Clean” appears to rip a Jimmy Eat World groove off, and Baldi starts to sing sloppily again. It’s strange to hear his progression from twee-pop, to post-hardcore, to this. Last Building Burning tries to be the rebound record after the chilly response to Life Without Sound, but it’s a muted affair and while there are some great ideas here, Baldi sabotages it often by reverting to his old ways. Back in 2011, Baldi realized that the iteration of Cloud Nothings that he’d formulated in his bedroom had no legs to stand on going forward, so he ditched it and reinvented the band for Attack on Memory. It was a risky move, and a bold one, but it paid off and made Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else revered as ruthlessly tight rock albums. With Last Building Burning it seems the band is phoning it all in now, despite not having earned that level of notoriety. It’s a shame, but Cloud Nothings haven’t managed to rebound from Life Without Sound’s glaring issues. It might be time for Baldi to try a new transition for this band.

 

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