Cloud Nothings is the kind of insipid name that makes you wish that all bands were labelled appropriately. I hadn’t given them much time in the past, precisely for the same reason that I’d subconsciously dismissed, say, Future Islands until recently; they came complete with an uninventive moniker that didn’t fill me with optimism about the sharpness of their creative talents. I also suspect that I might have confused them with crashingly dull Australian rockers Cloud Control.
It’s an admission that Here and Nowhere Else makes me ashamed of; granted, it won’t pick up too many prizes for originality, but the sheer energy and aggression that permeates every second of this record demands your full attention, even if their name doesn’t. Wichita seem to have a recent penchant for signing bands that inject genuine vigour into obvious, well-worn influences; Cheatahs, Swearin’ and the sadly-departed Spectrals all spring to mind, and Cloud Nothings are by no means out of place alongside them.
The title Here and Nowhere Else hints at an uncompromising nature, and it’s clear right from opener “Now Hear In” that deliverance is high on the agenda. It’s the rhythm section that drives it – churning bass, racing drums – and while the guitars fizz, it’s testament to the record’s quality that this is probably its weakest track. By “Quieter Today”, frontman Dylan Baldi is already on considerably more menacing vocal form, and there’s another highly effective utilisation of one of the band’s trustiest weapons; allowing the guitar to suddenly drop out at the midpoint, only to return twice as ferociously.
The real joy to be had with this record is the manner in which it breathes new life into old tropes; Baldi’s voice is at once both unremarkable by punk standards and impressive next to other such noise rock bands, but there’s just enough bite there, just enough honesty in the delivery, that you can’t help but be enthralled. “Psychic Trauma” begins almost casually, but within a minute is already well on the way to an incendiary guitar outro. “Giving Into Seeing” follows a straightforward – although furious – template to begin with, but its second half ranks amongst the album’s most rousing moments; the guitars and percussion begin to battle for prominence as the vocals grow increasingly desperate, and there’s a wonderful sense that the wheels are constantly on the verge of coming off.
The record’s penultimate track, “Pattern Walks”, serves as the jewel in the crown; suddenly, the band have entered considerably more experimental territory, with a thrilling, extended instrumental interlude serving as the album’s highlight. The gradual lead-in to the blistering closing stages, characterised by a violent maelstrom of angry guitars and increasingly fraught vocals, represents one of the most exhilarating rock passages in a very long while.
In rounding off proceedings, “I’m Not Part of Me” – the first cut made public – seems almost reserved by way of comparison, but it does a nice job of both reducing the record’s lyrical themes to microcosm and offering some respite for the eardrums after a vicious thirty minutes or so. It’s taken until late March, but Here and Nowhere Else is by some distance the only major contender I’ve yet heard for album of the year; every point of discussion – the instrumentation, the lyrics, the overall presentation – pales into insignificance next to the sheer energy of this effort. Not for a long time have I listened to something that so delights in its lack of abandon; their name might be uninspiring, but Cloud Nothings’ output is clearly anything but.