The upside to self-doubt and angst is that a perfect combination of the two can create great art. Oftentimes, the success that bands find when they load their albums with the youthful passion that only exists in a fleeting twenty-something moment is lost when the fire burns out on subsequent releases. Attack On Memory, considered by many to be Cloud Nothings’ lo-fi noise-pop opus, was a crowning achievement of the state of inner rage that develops out of stagnation and the perception of falling short of parental expectations. Another album packed with these themes would’ve been okay. Instead, with Here And Nowhere Else, Dylan Baldi and co. demonstrate a level of focus and precision by melding their pop-proficiency with their recent knack for the spiteful. There’s a sense of maturity and control present, without losing their trademark edge.
Now Hear In, the album’s lead-off track, exudes this development by providing a warm-up lap for what is to come. The group jumps between rhythmic dynamics and guitar breaks like momentary mood swings in preparation for Baldi’s “I can feel your pain and I feel alright about it” refrain. Already we’re meant to not only understand his insistence with moving on, but the underlying expulsion of his self-loathing as well. Quieter Today covers similar confident territory with an irresistibly massive chorus. This is also the first time we hear Baldi’s immediately identifiable snarl, which proves to be one of the band’s greatest weapons as the album progresses.
Psychic Trauma is where Cloud Nothings really get to stretch their legs. The transition from open strums to driving power chords provide the perfect emphasis for the ensuing chaos. The hook, “I’ll never behave, it’s hard to explain/Psychic trauma returns with age,” quickly turns into a searing lament as Baldi’s vocal chords shred over a wall of garage-pop noise. When all hell breaks loose in the last minute of the track, we’re provided with a brief and powerful ode to the cacophony that made Wasted Days (the nine-minute epic from Attack On Memory) such a standout track. Later on, Pattern Walks lands a bit below the eight-minute mark, but feels disjointed and never takes off quite like Wasted Days.
That’s a minor hiccup though, seeing as how that song is surrounded by tight-knit aggressive burners. Giving Into Seeing features great interplay between jangly guitars and over-driven bass lines before dissonantly building to the elbow-throwing outro where Baldi screams, “Seeing something it’s supposed to be true/Seeing something it’s supposed to be you.” Again, more evidence that the anger hasn’t completely dissipated, it’s just been externalized.
Most of Here And Nowhere Else doesn’t stray too far from that theme, save for No Thoughts, which delivers a cynical reminder of our short lives; and the closing number, I’m Not Part Of Me, that tones down the thundering drum rolls, distortion and Baldi’s relentless vocal attack just enough to assure us once and for all that a threshold of optimism has been crossed. “I can’t recall how I was those days anymore/I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else/How to focus on what I can do myself,” sings Baldi over a simple indie-punk groove. It’s perhaps the most transparent moment on the album, filled with recognition, acceptance and a promise of continued betterment. Regardless of where Cloud Nothings find themselves next, we can only hope that the expertly controlled passion and determination present on Here And Nowhere Else can continue to find more fuel in whatever life throws at them.