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Cloud Nothings
Here And Nowhere Else Joe Clay , April 9th, 2014 08:00

Imagine a scenario where Nirvana had stayed on Sub Pop, building a passionate but manageable following, able to bloom under the radar. Imagine grunge never happened; Kurt never met Courtney. Yeah, it's a stretch, especially as the man's final days are being lived out in minute detail at the moment, but humour me. Twenty years on, perhaps Kurt would be a cult hero. An underground legend who, after five albums with Nirvana, would have recorded a couple of lo-fi, Bon Iver-esque solo records (with wife Zooey Deschanel on backing vox – actually, scrap that, this is turning into a nightmare). He would then fade into the background, popping up every now and then to offer his services as a knob twiddler and inspirational father figure to bands like Cloud Nothings; Kurt seeing something of himself as an angry young man in Dylan Baldi, frontman and songwriter of the band from Cleveland, Ohio.

The parallels between Cobain and Baldi aren't that overt, over and above an innate ability to write noisy, angst-ridden punk rock with pop hooks and a penchant for checked shirts (plus Steve Albini produced Cloud Nothings' excellent breakthrough record, 2012's Attack On Memory). But say the Nirvana story had gone the same way – major label success, major league fall-out – yet not ended with Cobain's suicide, you could imagine the older man, hopefully clean and sober, looking on enviously, coveting Baldi and his band's popularity, achieved while still being relatively anonymous. Basically, Cloud Nothings circa-now are what Cobain would have dearly loved Nirvana to be. 

As with Attack On Memory, there's the feeling that the band's fourth album, Here And Nowhere Else, came bursting out of Baldi unheeded. It's raw, thrillingly so, clocking in at just under 32 minutes (the perfect length for an album, see also Richard D. James by Aphex Twin, Scott 4 and Slayer's Reign In Blood) and easily consumed in one sitting. There's no multi-tracking of vocals, no super producer like Butch Vig applying a radio-friendly sheen to everything. The opening six tracks are all around three minutes long and come at you in a rush. It's the sort of music that fixes you with a stare and dares you to look away; all visceral, hardcore riffs and impassioned, howling vocals. It's focused, honest songwriting, with only the seven-minute Pattern Walks sprawling into indulgent territory, and in drummer Jayson Gerycz, Cloud Nothings have a frenzied, muscular sticksman to rival Dave Grohl in his pomp.

And damn, the boy Baldi can write a hook. While Here And Nowhere Else is a noisy onslaught that rattles along at a cracking pace, there's a real sense of fun and catchy melodies that Billie Joe Armstrong would be proud of (especially album closer 'I'm Not Part Of Me'), which will probably see the album appropriated by beer-guzzling frat boys, despite lyrically being about life on the fringes – alienation, despair, heartache. More parallels with Cobain there, perhaps. Baldi told the A. V. Club around the release of Attack On Memory that he hadn't really listened to Nirvana, pinning any similarity in their sound to a mutual love of The Wipers. However, fans of Bleach and In Utero (and anyone yearning for what might have been as the circumstances surrounding Cobain's suicide are picked apart in ghoulish detail) should lap this shit up like milk-starved pussy cats.