Ohio punk trio Cloud Nothings’ latest, “Here and Nowhere Else,” is probably one of the most frustrating albums you will hear this year — both because of its angry, punk-rock aesthetic and its lost potential.
Much in the tradition of their Midwestern post-punk forefathers Husker Dü and the Replacements, Cloud Nothings shoot off like a rocket on the opening track “Now Hear In,” and they spend most of the album demolishing one blistering punk-rock anthem after another.
As an example of the band’s musicianship, the album is pretty impressive. Dylan Baldi’s cigarette-choked vocals sound great, the thump of TJ Duke’s bass makes for a nice, rich low end and Jayson Gerycz’s frantic drumming is better than it has ever been — some of the best in today’s indie scene.
Yet while the contributions of each member are substantial, “Here and Nowhere Else” fails to become more than the sum of these parts.
The biggest problem with this album is that it sacrifices riffs, dynamics and just about everything else for raw speed. Instead of maintaining the layered, jangly guitar sound and interesting drum fills that make songs like “Fall In” so catchy, the songs on “Here and Nowhere Else” are stripped down to the bare essentials — a progression of power chords, simple bass lines, drum beats and shout-along choruses.
While this formula may work for other bands, Cloud Nothings have already proven that they can do so much more, which makes this album feel like a step backwards from 2012’s “Attack on Memory.”
That being said, “Here and Nowhere Else” has its moments.
The fantastic single “I’m Not Part of Me,” with its lightning-fast hooks and tension-building bridges, is possibly the most infectious song Baldi has ever written. More than that, it firmly establishes the central theme of the album, which is derived from Baldi’s post-breakup experience of learning to cope with the here and now.
Other songs, like the seven-minute punk epic “Pattern Walks,” bring together all of the elements that make Cloud Nothings’ sound so appealing — razor-edged guitar tone, fuzzed-out bass, spacey interludes and frantic drumming, all played with the aggression and treble turned up as high as they can go.
However, many of these satisfying songs are bookended by what feels like filler, and these moments detract from the album as a whole.
Ultimately, the album is not the group’s best effort. The album’s weak moments prevent it from being the great work it could have been. “Here and Nowhere Else” proves that while aggression and speed are essential elements of punk rock, they are not the only elements that go into making a great record.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 3 print edition. John Ambrosio is a contributing writer. Email him at email@example.com.