Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
Cloud NothingsPrevious Next
author TL date 01/03/17 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN
On many a weekday, it is possible to come to Loppen in Christiania and catch an international band, famous in some niche or other, coupled with whatever local talent could be found of remote stylistic similarity. And this Wednesday night is no different, in fact it's quite a treat, because tonight's headliners - Wichita-based indie rockers Cloud Nothings - have shown considerable excellence in recent years, and have only just continued their hot streak with "Life Without Sound", one of the best albums released so far in 2017. They killed it live at Beta in 2012 and persevered over dodgy sound right here in Loppen in 2014, so there's reason to both be excited and simultaneously slightly concerned about whether the mix will be better this time. But before finding out, there's the matter of the local contribution.
'Local', on this occasion, means 'from the other side of the country', as the group Modest hails from the burgeoning music scene of Aarhus. The young quartet get started unceremoniously, and soon give the audience an idea of what they're about. The guitar playing seems clearly inspired by The Smiths and The Cure, not the most innovative stuff, but classic and enjoyable nonetheless, while the drumming in particular hits a bit harder and is more energetic, perhaps having looked to tonight's headliners for inspiration. The stingy part is the vocals, though. The band's bassist also performs in the role of vocalist, and seems like he's going for a Morrissey-esque style of delivery, but where Morrissey has a unique style that is distinctly melodious, these vocals are a bit more Ian Curtis in their take on melody - which is to say there are moments where it's more shouty than actually melodious, and here sadly more in an incidental than in an artistic way.
This does a bit of a number on any serious interest one might have worked up for the young band ahead of time. And time passes while trying to decide whether it's just a matter of having to start somewhere, and that the band can get these vocals shaped into something characteristic, given some time, or whether it's more that bands really should just think twice about giving the lead microphone to someone who hasn't developed their singing ability very much. Of course, there was all that talk about the post-punk revival, and there will always be rock bands making waves even with less than impressive vocals, but the 'full package' of Modest doesn't really either make it work for them nor make up for it. Not enough to leave a really promising impression, not yet at least.
The customary 30 minutes-ish follows, and Loppen is filling up nicely, though short of getting uncomfortably packed, which is nice considering the venue's unusual shape and setup. Then Cloud Nothings come on and commence as unceremoniously as their support act did, kicking straight into "Sight Unseen" - a highlight from "Life Without Sound". Throughout it the sound guy very quickly adjusts the sound well, so that throughout the show, you can hear all but the quietest vocal parts, and the only noticeable imbalance is being that Chris Brown's guitar does occasionally blur overpower frontman Dylan Baldi's a bit. And if anyone had wandered into the venue not really knowing what they'd signed up for, Cloud Nothings quickly demonstrate what their strength is, namely playing their music live with an amount of energy and dynamics that is, with the risk of understatement, very unusual.
A few tracks later, after "Psychic Trauma" from "Here And Nowhere Else", people have already been shaken up and are trying to catch their breath, because the tempo has been escalated to the positively rampant more than a few times. Said track is also a good example to throw on at home, to get an idea of how outlandishly good drummer Jayson Gerycz is. He only has a minimal kit of three drums and two cymbals with him, yet watching him throughout the concert is a like an hour long version of the final scene from Whiplash. It's actually unbelievable that he doesn't melt a kit per night because his ability to escalate the tempo more and more to reach further neck-breaking levels seems to have no ceiling.
"Sadly", however, you can't just fix your attention on Gerycz all evening, because he's not all Cloud Nothings have to offer. The whole band has good, old-fashioned musicality just oozing out of them. Mixing up the setlist on each evening, tonight's set treats us to stuff like "Internal World", "Enter Entirely", "Things Are Right With You", "Darkened Rings" and "Enter Entirely" from "Life Without Sound", "I'm Not Part Of Me" from "Here And Nowhere Else", and "Fall In" from "Attack On Memory". The noise is cranked up loud, and it's one of those evenings where the dream of guitar noise becomes reality, as Brown and Baldi's instruments buzz and ring and intertwine joyously. You kinda want to jump on stage and just crawl up close to the amps and let the sound slowly disintegrate you.
In the interest of un-fanboying just a little, other than playing absolutely excellently, Cloud Nothings do not make much of themselves on stage. Baldi speaks less than three sentences during the set, and it's not that they jump around or any such stuff while playing, leaving the actions to be watched firmly on the fretboards and drum skins. It's a bit of a stubborn, "too cool" tactic that is not recommended for most bands, but Cloud Nothings can do it because the sound they make live is just so excellent. Not only is the sheer tone of it groomed to perfection - harmonious when intended and discordant when needed - but the songwriting patterns are also extremely lively and infectious. It's like a crossing of Car Seat Headrest, Japandroids and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, only utterly supercharged in a way you don't hear with any of those.
So the only reason you'd really want the band to stop feels like it could be your shortness of breath or starting ache in the neck. Yet, perhaps in recognition of how long they can keep playing to their strengths, and of how they are not really a band to cultivate the mellower, more deep-felt atmospheres, the band powers straight through to an end at around the one hour mark. Slower tracks are probably included more to simply give the audience a chance to catch its breath, and you could conceive this as an area the band could explore better if they come to a point where they want longer sets with more variety. Yet such concerns are quickly forgotten as "Realize My Fate" churns slowly and ominously as the penultimate ramp-up track before the epic "Wasted Days" sets out on the final journey of the night. Here, the band gives it their all in the seemingly endless, jam-like bridge section that makes the song all lop-sided after its first part - a section that is updated in several ways here in its live version. Again and again, the band find an extra notch to crank the tempo and guitar noise up to, squeezing the audience for every ounce of listening energy we have left. And it's a gloriously exhausting and uncompromising display of power and confidence in what they do as a band. Which only makes you want to say: "Cloud Nothings, don't change for anyone but yourselves and please come back as soon as possible!"