If the year were to end tomorrow, Parks and Recreation’s “The Comeback Kid,” aka the one where Ben wears a Letters to Cleo t-shirt, would be the best TV episode of 2012; the 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast, the best movie (it’s been a rough few weeks, cinematically speaking); and Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings, the best album.
Dylan Baldi’s first two efforts as Cloud Nothings were lo-fi pop punk affairs, and though not without their charms, they were missing something; they felt too thin, with a certain lack of eagerness that often comes from home recordings. Baldi solves that problem here by making everything bigger and better: bigger hooks and choruses, better lyrics and musicianship, and most importantly, bigger and better production, courtesy of Steve Albini. Predictably, the drums sound huge. But how does it hold up live? Amazingly well.
The four-piece Cleveland-based band played in front of a sold-out crowd last night at The Studio at Webster Hall, a one-off gig before a months-long tour beginning in February (including visits to Mercury Lounge and Glasslands in March). In a word, the band sounded “essential” (and like Sunny Day Real Estate), as if they had to prove themselves all over again with every song. They were raw, intense, physical, aggressive, and it showed even in the name of the songs they played in their tight 50-minute set: the already-anthemic “No Future/No Past,” skuzzy show opener “Stay Useless,” bursting “Cut You,” and the Nirvana-like “No Sentiment.” When a scratchy-voiced Baldi furiously proclaimed, “No nostalgia, no sentiment/We’re over it now and we were over it then,” he meant it. Cloud Nothings doesn’t sound like an escapist band desperately yearning for it to be the 90s again. They’re perfectly content being angry and pissed off now, and the crowd was right there with them.
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury