Cloud Nothings – The Shadow I Remember
Released February 26th, 2021 on Carpark Records
Produced by Steve Albini
Once upon a time Cloud Nothings were one of the hottest bands on Earth. Having built a following with two albums of lo-fi power pop, they blew up their sound on their third album into something bigger, darker, and much more punk rock, with the dense, pounding production courtesy of Steve Albini. That was ten years ago; since then Dylan Baldi has shown himself to be unwilling or unable to break out of his particular narrow songwriting style and has more or less released the same album several times. Sometimes this has worked; both Here And Nowhere Else and Last Burning Building came close to capturing the magic that still makes 2012’s Attack On Memory such a vicious delight. At other times it’s been a slog; Life Without Sound committed the cardinal sin of being boring, and it tellingly failed to chart after Here And Nowhere Else came within striking distance of the Top 40. I am here to tell you that The Shadow I Remember does not alter this course much. The word “much” is carefully chosen, however; Baldi seems to actually be willing to break out and explore new ways of crafting a melody. Those melodic semi-experiments often get buried under that barrel-roll Cloud Nothings punk rock sound, but they are there, nonetheless. “Am I Something” is notable for featuring a riff that is actually outside of the band’s wheelhouse, although I’m pretty sure that riff is just Bad Religion’s “Fertile Crescent.” Albini is back to produce but doesn’t seem to layer the band’s sound as thickly as he did a decade ago. Still, his presence is felt throughout and the mush of Life Without Sound is left well beyond courtesy of his mastery.
Don’t get me all tangled up, here: there’s nothing wrong with a band mining one sound if they do it with energy and a spark of life. The Shadow I Remember follows logically from the band’s legacy, but it falls more on the Last Burning Building side of the fence, in that it at least acquits it’s self-references quite well. It’s a good Cloud Nothings record, and if that’s what you’re after than you can do no wrong with putting this one on. It would just be nice to see something besides chasing the high of “Wasted Days” and “Stay Useless.”