For Cloud Nothings, last year’s Life Without Sound was intentionally meant to be a different album. It was a scary thought, especially considering the strength of Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else, the albums leading up to it. On this change-of-pace album, frontman Dylan Baldi took on a greater singer-songwriter role, attempting to deliver introspective, tuneful songs. The result was largely a clumsy and out-of-character effort, the
Cloud Nothings’ distinctive bite deteriorated.
Thankfully, Last Building Burning (Carpark Records) is a breath of fresh air, and the anxiety-fueled intensity and aggression of prime Cloud Nothings is heard immediately. Opener “On an Edge” re-relinquishes the catchy-cathartic balance only this band can achieve. This sort of battering continues on “Leave Him Now” (likely the most approachable cut), “In Shame,” and so on throughout the rest of the album. (Note: The fact we’re distinguishing songs as approachable vs. not is a testament to how sanitized Life Without Sound was.)
Back-to-basics is better for Cloud Nothings, but Last Building Burning is certainly not as successful as the predecessors it harkens back to. It wasn’t until this album that we realized the band might be following a template first formulated on Attack on Memory and then tastefully repeated on Here and Nowhere Else. As for Last Building Burning, it’s roughly assembled as follows: single-ready material in the front (“Leave Him Now”), an unabridged and relatively cacophonic song in the middle (“Dissolution”), and then concluding with a deliberately light-hearted track (“Another Way of Life”). Although it’s a functional template, Cloud Nothings seems to be slightly plagiarizing themselves, though it’s only just now become noticeable.
Without truly regressing, Last Building Burning is Cloud Nothings going back to what works. But or all of the album’s retreaded elements, it’s ultimately refreshing to hear they still have something ferocious left in the tank.