Cloud Nothings with Protomartyr
St. Paul, MN
Thursday, May 1, 2014
For many bands, danger and unpredictability are their stock-in-trade. However, there are a slight few that actually seem that way in an up-close, live environment. Cleveland natives Cloud Nothings don't seem particularly dangerous per se, but they definitely are, in a musical sense, unpredictable. That unpredictability made them all the more enticing to watch on Thursday at the Turf Club.
Beginning the night with the concussion-inducing combination of "Quieter Today" and "Now Hear In," both from this year's Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings hit hard and without remorse. It was like getting drilled by a semi and then dragged behind it for a few miles -- but in the best way possible. The set continued with, what likely was "Stay Useless" and then things got very interesting for a couple of reasons: A good-sized mosh pit opened up in front of the stage -- a pit that would stay whirly and pushy for the remainder of the night -- and I got lost enough in the set that I stopped taking notes for several minutes.
That's right: the show was so good, I briefly forgot I was supposed to be covering it. Unprofessional? Maybe, but I chalk it up to the power of the band. In all my years of doing this, not once has that happened. Cloud Nothings are quite possibly the band that many have been looking for over the last two decades. 0 percent fat. Not even one note was present that doesn't have a specific purpose. There were no extra anythings -- it was all lean and trim and the hooks are so sharp they could slice a diamond in two without a struggle.
What that shakes out to be is a reimagining of '90s grunge but stripping away everything that felt forced about that genre. The muddy power chords were replaced with minor key thunder played at brilliant speed. It was feedback-infused, not feedback-soaked (yes, there is a distinct difference) and while people wanted to mosh, people wanted to stomp their feet, too (try doing that to "Outshined"). All of this was done at eardrum-melting volume with the efficiency of a lion dragging a gazelle down in the African savannah.[page]
As the band wrapped up their 55-minute, 13-song set with an elongated, genre-bending 9-plus minute version of "Wasted Days" that took detours into Tool territory for a brief passage and at one point resembled something I can only describe as math-punk, the sweaty, eager crowd had a collective look upon their faces that they had enough but, at the same time, it would never be enough.
The hooks, the tone, the lyrics, the rhythm, all of it combines and the end result is fantastically catchy and astonishingly accomplished, new textures and subtle shifts can be found with each repeated listen. Not bad for a band the name of which lead singer Dylan Baldi made up just to upload some demos onto MySpace five years ago. Make no mistake: they're definitely something.
Critic's Bias: I just admitted in print that I was so captivated so that I briefly forgot I was covering the show. Here and Nowhere Else is easily my favorite album of 2014 so far.
The Crowd: Young and eager for a good time. They were also surprisingly sober for a Thursday night, but it was packed at the lines at the bar looked long.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Holy shit, this is loud!" from at least three people, all of whom were speaking the truth.
Notebook Dump: In 1992, these guys would have been signed to Matador before their first song was over.
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