As long as everybody's mining the '90s for influences, Cloud Nothings could do a lot worse than introduce new album Attack on Memory with a video that could've led into the opening credits of The X-Files. A man with neatly cut white hair and a crisp light-blue dress shirt glides as if dragged by unseen powers while ominous LP opener "No Future/No Past" builds, with a patience that verges on malevolent, from delicately pretty piano tinkling to full-throated screams and gnashing guitars. The emo is out there.
Brought to us by Urban Outfitters and directed by previous Cloud Nothings cohort John Ryan Manning, this video is creepy and compelling, but what's really notable is the way it suggests a transformation: Once visibly uneasy, our floating hero ends the clip with a cruel grin. It's certainly no stretch to say Cloud Nothings have undergone their own metamorphosis. Once the solo project of main man Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings is now a full band; where once Baldi was churning out lo-fi garage-pop nuggets like the ones compiled on self-recorded debut Turning On, now he and his Fucked Up tour-honed band are plodding through ambitiously sprawling songs indebted to Jade Tree-style emo-rock, under the recording oversight of indie luminary Steve Albini.
Now, Cloud Nothings aren't the only band tapping into the less commercial side of '90s emo — Cymbals Eat Guitars got there first on last year's equally high-aiming Lenses Alien, which brought to mind bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Shudder to Think as well as more widely celebrated indie fare like Modest Mouse. And it's difficult to improve on the scrappy pop-punk charm of early Cloud Nothings songs like "Can't Stay Awake," originally released on CD-R and cassette by lovable, tiny California label Bridgetown Records.
But then again, Cloud Nothings' self-titled 2011 album, their first wide-distribution release, really did feel in hindsight like a transitional album: less hooky and endearing than its predecessor, less muscular and thoughtful than Attack on Memory. For discarding his past and letting the future be what it will be — for letting chips fall for where they may — Baldi surely deserves heaps of credit. In "No Future/No Past," we have the first sign Cloud Nothings might actually be good for it. I WANT TO BELIEVE.
For now the vid is only viewable on Vimeo: Click below to get there.