Cloud Nothings – “No Future/No Past”

By: Jack Stein

Ah, the human voice; an element of both destruction and joy. Even amidst the whirring electronics, queasy synths and art-damaged guitar squall that independent music often relishes in, no component of a song is quite as divisive as the vocals that subsequently determine a track’s destiny. The phenomenon of The Voice explains how the buzz around Lana Del Rey reached a fever pitch last summer, why your best friend either loves or hates Matt Berninger (of the National)’s wooly baritone, and why we still remember who William Hung is (shudder.) Despite being a signature element of the music we utilize to soundtrack our lives, The Voice has also been drowned out as of late, with mumbled vocals and obscured, ambiguous and detached lyricism (thanks, chillwave) often the preferred route to the earnest, raw expression that our current generation grew up on.

Enter Dylan Baldi, vocalist of Cleveland punk crew Cloud Nothings, whose excellent full-length LP Attack on Memory arrives tomorrow. What is most striking about this track, the slow-burning album opener “No Future/No Past”, is that The Voice appears to be making a triumphant (albeit downtrodden and tormented) return. As the percussive din and ominous guitar jangle patiently swells into a maelstrom around him, Baldi finds his voice gaining momentum with every repetition of his mantra-like phrasing (“Give up, come to know/we’re through”), building from a feebly wounded croon into a subtly cracking yelp until he unleashes the most exhilaratingly unholy howl this side of Pixies-era Frank Black. You can literally hear the song slowly splitting apart at its seams, a neat auditory trick to accompany Baldi’s presumably deteriorating psyche, as the song reaches its cathartic conclusion.

While the caustic “No Future/No Past” serves as a red herring of sorts for the delightfully skewed art-punk that follows on the album, it serves a twofold purpose: first, it introduces this band as a force to be reckoned with for the new year, ushering them in as what is most likely your First Big Thing of 2012. Second, and perhaps less ephemerally, it shows that The Voice isn’t quite dead within independent music; rather, it just needed this defibrillator of an opening salvo from Cloud Nothings to wake it the fuck up.

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