Cloud Nothings – Final Summer

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It feels like ten years ago. The aftermath of breakthrough album Attack on Memory still in scent, 2014 brought the release of Cloud Nothings’ Here and Nowhere Else. A collection of garage rock all-timers that sound like journeys home, the Ohio band’s third album pedestrianised a rock n roll wonderland where guitars clunk like vehicular machinery, drum solos are played by at least double the amount of associated limbs, and sky-raising crescendos offer far more solace than your typical rocker.

With Final Summer, it’s back to the wonderland, and basically back to basics. The trademarks of Here and Nowhere Else had since been abandoned, unless we’re talking about the fearless heart-crunches of Realize My Fate from Life Without Sound. Thumbing through a hit list of producers – Sleater-Kinney helping hand John GoodmansonRandall Dunn and his wall of sound burning and building on Last Building Burning, and a reunion with since-departed Steve Albini on The Shadow I Remember – Cloud Nothings would spend the ensuing decade recreating themselves whenever possible. But like an oxymoronic fresh nostalgia, the band’s eighth album rejuvenates the catalogue with a similar approach to days of old.

Reinvigorated, the songs of Final Summer capture the sense of movement frequented on Here and Nowhere Else, spiritedly as frontman Dylan Baldi literally runs through the campus on Running Through the Campus. While there is a slouching, slacker’s demeanour in his radio-singalong vocal tendencies, the drums and guitars that spot him jog alongside with the occasional leap, and a sudden flurry that may worry the runner with teases of thunder. Despite those leaps and flurries, the unlaboured movements of the title track speaks louder volumes, running at more beats per minute. Baldi’s melodies are nursery rhyme-esque, following a yellowy synth haven introduction that immediately burns into a quickening tempo that’ll knock passers-by into delirium. There’s a drum fill every few seconds, pricking a new hair on the back of one’s neck with inescapably infectious rock and roll.

There was often a pattern to the compositions of Here and Nowhere Else, in which curious, neither here-nor-there verses would suddenly twist into clear, concise choruses with the ability to pick up moods. While recurrent on Final SummerThe Golden Halo offers a clear build in which gentler versions of roar-along, repetitious mantras are proxied in a verse. The runway is cleared, and the song turns into one long mantra – “are you not the golden halo?” – following a few sparkly lines that Baldi delivers with determination and energy – “if the sun went out today would the world remain the same?”. Impounding, unflawed and friendly, it’s the feelgood hit of the final summer.

The good mood of The Golden Halo bleeds directly into Thank Me For Playing like an invisible segue. Baldi is unsnobbish and agreeable as he declares “I hear what you say / you’re one up today / If I’m doing good, then you’re doing great” before refusing to reduce himself to schadenfreude. Whirlwinds of whooshing guitars and frolicking drum fills spiral around his silly head, setting us up for the typhoons that back up his cursed roars on On the Chain, screaming “if you’re trying to save me, know I’m trying the same thing” whilst spilling guts, still offering adrenaline and motivation to his audience.

If this is the Cloud Nothings album we didn’t know we wanted/needed, Daggers of Light and I’d Get Along are the door-to-door insurance salesmen we could do without, tediously standing and staring whilst waiting for somebody else’s decision, seldom operating on their own movement. But Mouse Policy and Common Mistake continue those moods of old, the former a surfy descent reminiscent of the instrumentation from Attack on Memory, the latter another friendly charge that resembles the freeing road trips of Here and Nowhere Else, with a little less pace.

But past appearances gleefully aid Cloud Nothings on Final Summer, feeling far more like the sequel to Here and Nowhere Else than Life Without Sound ever did. With a demon in its rearview, the album rides towards a better horizon alongside indie rock as focussed as it is calamitous, complete with expert, but unshowy, playing that makes advantages out of simplicity. It is musical medicine with its sights set on the beautiful skyline projected on its cover art, reminiscent of memories, grabbing hold of the future.

Lasting Appeal

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