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