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'Last Building Burning' is Cloud Nothings’ weak attempt to build upon their sound

Though energetic and invigorating, the band fails to leave a worthwhile impression

<p>“Last Building Burning” is Cloud Nothings' follow-up to 2017's poppier "Life Without Sound," and this feels like a return to form.</p>

“Last Building Burning” is Cloud Nothings' follow-up to 2017's poppier "Life Without Sound," and this feels like a return to form.

Over the course of their discography, garage rock band Cloud Nothings has experimented with numerous producers to create different variations of their sound. After tuning down their typical thrashing forces and focusing on a quieter, introspective view on last year’s “Life Without Sound,” the band returns to form in their latest album, “Last Building Burning,” in an aggressively energetic manner. 

For their newest release, Cloud Nothings recruited acclaimed metal producer Randall Dunn, and the result is 35 minutes of intense rock and roll. It was supposedly recorded in just eight days in an attempt to bring the rawness of their concerts into the studio, and the group’s efforts certainly paid off. Lead singer Dylan Baldi’s vocals are raspy and strained, the guitars are piercing, and it ultimately feels like the band has returned to their scratchy, fan-favorite style. What keeps the album from standing out in their discography, however, is an absence of appealing hooks and a few tracks that don’t quite align with the rest of them, resulting in a somewhat incomplete listen.

“Last Building Burning” resembles a focused and intensive revival of rock and roll. It immediately jumps into a hard but inviting jam on the passionate opener, “On An Edge.” The product of their 2017 record, “Life Without Sound,” was a release that failed to give listeners precisely what they look for in Cloud Nothings’ music — the coarse, fast-paced garage rock that is so invigorating and addictive. Just eight tracks long, their newest has a traditional Cloud Nothings fervor that brings back the rhythmic fury from 2014’s “Here and Nowhere Else” and a similar texture to that of 2012’s “Attack On Memory.” There is consistency in their sound and strong instrumentation to back it up.

Another thing that Cloud Nothings achieve on this album is an epic build-up to a giant climax on “Dissolution.” Two of the tracks leading up to this 11-minute giant, “In Shame” and “Offer An End,” both have massive, passionate buildups before Baldi’s mesmerizing screams capture the album’s main emotional point. With its wandering drumming and luring guitar riffs, “Dissolution” veers into a sort of Deerhunter-esque psychedelia that is haunting yet stunningly beautiful. Just like “Wasted Days,” which is certainly one of the band’s greatest feats, this track’s sheer intensity has the exact punk statement the album needs.

As said earlier, the invigorating energy that Cloud Nothings brings to this album — notably in the fiery opener and the following few tracks — is definitely appreciable. In tune with other songs on the album, these songs have the fury and vigor of something great, but a few of them lack the same distinct energy that makes it memorable. For a record that immediately begins with aggressive screams and thundering guitar riffs, one would hope for a continuation of the raw energy, but some tracks take away from the pulsing vitality of the album. “The Echo Of The World” and “So Right So Clean” both have a slower pace, taking away from the raw and rowdy beauty of the release.

Another problem this album faces is the lack of experimentation. There are plenty of highlights that show the band’s talent — but in the end, it feels more like a retread of previous works. A handful of tracks do not have engaging choruses or memorable hooks, leaving the album with engaging instrumentation with no lasting impression. “Leave Him Now” is essentially the only track on the record that has an effective chorus worth remembering. The band does not show much expansion of their sound. 

Though numerous facets of “Last Burning Building” share similarities with their excellent releases from the past, Cloud Nothings’ newest album fails to show the same impressionability, coming off as an uninteresting, jaded effort. It is certainly an improvement from the boring pop album that was their 2017 release — but for a band that’s five records deep into their discography, one would only hope for more innovation on their sound.