Cloud Nothings have delivered something wonderful for their seventh studio album, Last Burning Building. Since their inception in 2010, no album of theirs has rocked harder than LBB, taking the gutsy nature of their last few albums and sending it into maximum overdrive. Ergo, we had high expectations for the live version, expecting it would be just as loud, wild, and nonstop. And now that they’ve hit the Teregram Ballroom on their LBB tour, we can say with confidence that it was just that.
The first opening band never introduced themselves, but we later found out from Teregram’s twitter that it had been Divinity Band, an LA-based collective whose main attraction seems to be ambient chill-wave—with some pretty rigorous drumming. It was a wonder Cloud Nothings chose them: their music was so drastically different from what we were subjected to later, and while it was nice to have an appetizer before our eardrums were demolished, this was not the right choice. The performance itself was so deeply discordant: at times it felt like one side of the stage was playing one thing and the other side another, made even worse by the sparse room and the sounds of guests still slowly trickling in. It was difficult to tell what song they were even playing— I don’t even think they knew— but it seemed that was part of the appeal as the drummer was going at it as if the success of the band depended solely on the force with which he hit the drums. Yet, somehow, as a whole, they were too chill, too mellow for the setting, too lyric-less, and to say it plain, they could’ve benefited from some lyrics. It felt their set was just one song that was ongoing— for all 38 minutes.
At least they were passionate.
Tonight’s show had not one, but two openers. The next one was Shells, who was not a rapper despite what the Ticketfly page said, but instead a barefoot woman brandishing a red Fender guitar and an impressive collection of brightly colored picks. She didn’t sing, but played a mean 30-minute set on bass, producing a delightful balance of dissonance and synchronicity that more than made up for her silence. It was again a deep contrast to the music we’d come to hear, but the mellow, deep strummings of Shells at least appetized our ears for what was to come next.
Just as you would expect from listening to Cloud Nothings’ new album, tonight’s show was loud (well, minus the vocals), urgent, and unapologetic. Despite some audio problems that made it difficult for one side of the Ballroom to hear what was going on on the other, Cloud Nothings proved an impressively vibrant band onstage, jamming as if they were playing a sold-out arena, making the show as foretelling as it was lively and giving us a solid taste of what’s to come. Not only did they reflect the album perfectly live, but the album reflected their potential as a punk band, and if Last Burning Building is any indication of what’s on the horizon, their divergence towards post-punk is a welcomed one.
If you’ve generally kept up with Cloud Nothings in the past few years, you’ll know that Last Burning Building has taken an even bigger step towards the punk side of rock than any album of theirs (yes, including 2012’s Attack on Memory), suddenly going balls to the wall with an 8-track compilation of frantic vocals and faster tempos than they’ve ever dared to do. LBB takes the band quite deep into the beating heart of the punk rock scene, and with it’s snarling guitar chords and eruptive lyrics unloads a bucketful of passion and emotion. Performed in its entirety tonight, the uproar of Last Burning Building alone was enough to carry the energy of the show, so much that older songs were not necessarily needed.
But, that doesn’t mean they were absent. In fact, despite everything, it was the few old songs sprinkled in-between that were the true gems among the audience: as they dove into the lo-fi, rough-around-the-edges material that was characteristic of them earlier on, mosh pits followed suit. While their new album seemed better suited for the ‘mosh pit’ culture that seems to follow them, what went over best with the crowd seemed solely a matter of what was known longer— and between songs from LBB and 2012’s Attack on Memory, AoM won out. We’ve definitely progressed past the times where they were a member short and Dylan would try to play both guitar parts at once, but the sheer excitement of that album had definitely not been lost. While it felt as though some of the older songs had fallen victim to unintentional tempo changes, everything else about this show was much more polished than any earlier one— that even with audio issues they were able to fill out the venue with spirited sound proves that Cloud Nothings are continuously going in the right direction.
Cloud Nothings continues their tour through the end of the year, stopping next in San Francisco. Last Burning Building is out now via Carpark Records.