Originally created as a home recording project, Cloud Nothings, the brainchild of Dylan Baldi (guitar/vocals), is definitely one of the most dynamic bands around. There’s a hard edge to many of their songs, especially after their first, self-titled LP, but they are layered with hooks that were impossible to avoid at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore on Monday.
Having recorded with the likes of John Congleton and Chicago icon Steve Albini, Cloud Nothing’s fifth and latest LP, this year’s Life Without Sound, feature the same driving energy — but this time the songs seemed to stick in my head sometimes long after I’ve stopped for a breather. Dylan always creates punk songs with a ear for pop song craft, but on Life Without Sound there’s a balance that pulls in tunes such as “Modern Act,” “Up to the Surface,” and “Things Are Right With You.” where each line carries weight but is maybe more clearly defined than on songs from Here and Nowhere Else or Attack on Memory. Even fast and loud songs like “Darkened Rings” include a personal tone with lines like, “Took it all down / All of written sound / Life that was spent living line by line.”
Watch the official video for “Internal World” by Cloud Nothings on YouTube:
Cloud Nothings make great records, but their live shows tend to bring with those songs a manic urgency — the hallmark of a great live band. Cloud Nothings last played Baltimore in February, shortly after the release of Life Without Sound. And although the band is based in Cleveland, Ohio, I like to think it has a special connection to the Baltimore/DC area. Cloud Nothings’ first full length was produced in Baltimore by Chester Gwazda, and label Car Park Records has its home in the District.
Back in February, there was a very palpable need for a relief from the frustration of the previous (and even now current) year, and it was a very physical show — a packed house with a great deal of cathartic release from both band and audience. Monday night at Ram’s Head Live, the band was as energized as ever, and the songs could be heard even more clearly than I remember during their last stop through town. Opening can be tough, and opening on a Monday even more so, but I could definitely see the band making new connections with this audience.
Dylan Baldi at some times seemed possessed as he frantically shredded his guitar, while TJ Duke (bass) and Chris Brown (guitar and who had previously been in Total Babes with Cloud Nothing drummer Jayson Gerycz) provided blistering textures and harmony. And, as a totally unbiased observer, I’d have to say Jayson is one of the most energetic and talented drummers around — which was definitely not lost on the crowd.
Starting with the show burner “Realize My Fate,” Cloud Nothings covered much of Life Without Sound (“Up to the Surface,” “Enter Entirely,” “Darkened Rings”) and Here and Nowhere Else (“Pattern Walks,” “Psychic Trauma”) with the epic dynamics of “Wasted Days” from Attack on Memory as the closer.
If you have the opportunity, definitely check out Cloud Nothings. Check here for a list of dates. They are currently on tour with Japandroids.
Here are some pictures of Cloud Nothings performing at Rams Head Live on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.