A brief safe-haven from the St. Patrick’s Day revelers on an already busy Friday night in Glasgow, Stereo is packed to the rafters in anticipation of the (recently expanded) Cleveland, Ohio indie-rock four-piece Cloud Nothings.
From the band’s Steve Albini produced sophomore record, 2012’s excellent Attack on Memory, they have grown and grown in reputation as one of indie rock’s last surviving bastions.
Over the course of 2014’s breakout Here and Nowhere Else and this year’s Life Without Sound plus an explosive live act, it is no small wonder the crowd are hot for the band’s arrival.
At their best, Cloud Nothings are a band that inspires sheer elation from its most fervent fans and a more widespread respect from the rest.
One only needs to see the audiences’ reaction to their best-known songs ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ and ‘Fall In’ from their earlier albums.
Tonight is very much a new album focused show, however, with it taking the majority of Cloud Nothing’s stage time.
Opener ‘Up to the Surface’ does exactly what it needs to both here and on the most recent record; as a song, it slowly builds and builds and builds before reaching a now very familiar exploding point in the band’s range.
Things really get going at recent single ‘Modern Act’, a song with a classically catchy hook, proving once again that lead singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi has an incredible talent for songwriting and pop sensibilities.
Similarly, most recent single ‘Enter Entirely’ is a perfect example of the bands (more recent) ability to write a perfectly formed, bluesy slow jam which still hits the peaks the band are known for but feel especially earned due to the song’s controlled, considered approach.
There is a slight nagging feeling however that not all is right in Cloud Nothings camp; the sound takes an uncharacteristically long time to clear from its original muddiness largely because this is a LOUD live band.
This has a lot to do with drummer Jayson Gerycz who, while has a knack for hitting incredibly realised fills, is such an explosive drummer that it is almost to a fault.
On the band’s slower songs, he shows control and prowess: being allowed to nurture his clear talent without taking too much away from the rest of the song or band.
The problem is, on the band’s faster songs, Gerycz has a tendency to rush everything they are doing and hope the rest of the band can keep pace with an already high BPM being raised.
The band does generally get away with it, and when they pull it off on the aforementioned ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ it feels genuinely earned and bursting at the seams, however, on songs like ‘Darkened Rings’ or even on older fan-favourite ‘Wasted Days’ (placed strategically at the end of the set here in order to space out into a prolonged jam), the feeling that the band are falling apart is rather distracting.
Not to place all the blame on the band’s drummer, especially as he is often the only thing worth paying attention to here.
Baldi is fairly quiet and unresponsive, his long shaggy hair rarely (if ever) uncovering his face and with an annoying habit of counting each song in on palm muted guitar strokes, while bassist TJ Duke and new guitarist Chris Brown may as well have not bothered, so quiet is their sound and stage presence.
Some of the band’s new album-heavy set doesn’t always work too, such as the Weezer-aping ‘Internal World’, however, none of this really effect’s the band’s fairly vocal audience, who for the majority seem to be lost in a happy bliss between punk-rock music and shout-a-long vocals, which are the band’s basic staple diet.
There is no doubting the power of the band’s best songs (although ‘Stay Useless’ was a sad omission tonight) and their new album mostly takes on a life of its own in a live setting.
There’s just a few little issues that add up to a much bigger one that keeps tonight’s set going from “good” to “great” or even “incredible”, which seems well within Cloud Nothings’ reach.
Words: Adam Turner-Heffer
Photos: Ann-Christin Heinrich