Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound


Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
Carpark/Wichita (2017)

I’ve got to admit, initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of Cloud Nothings’ new album Life Without Sound. I’d even go so far as to say my first impression was anxious disappointment. “It’s so clean,” I thought. Smoother. Slower. More subdued. And lacking the same threat of imminent rhythmic violence pulsing through the angsty Cleveland, Ohio indie rockers’ 2014 album Here and Nowhere Else.

I wasn’t begrudging Cloud Nothings their success. They worked their arses off touring Here and Nowhere Else. And naturally, this time around, they were always going to sound bigger, bolder and more expensive. But frontman Dylan Baldi’s voice sounds unfamiliar early on, lacking the same desperate rasp and emotional hints of madness I’d come to expect. For lack of a better word, Cloud Nothings sound more… “mature.” Contemplative, that’s it.

But track four, “Darkened Rings,” brings the roof down on that theory. Baldi’s voice sounds raw again. Deeper. Less Ben Gibbard, more Kurt Cobain. And drummer Jayson Gerycz slips back into the busy fills and frantic, aggressive rhythms he brought to Life Without Sounds’ predecessor. It’s a stark, sudden reminder.

After that, things mellow out again, but the melodies and hooks gain momentum and personality. “Modern Act” is an instant classic. A quirky, thoughtful indie rock jam with a bleeding punk rock heart and a chorus that’s catchier than nursery rhymes. Baldi’s voice sounds more natural. You can almost feel his breath in your headphones again, yet the hooks are still poppy enough to infiltrate your brain. “This is more like it,” I thought, as broody, emotional banger “Sight Unseen” builds to its explosive conclusion.

Then penultimate song “Strange Year” heads out in a slower, grungier, more kicking-and-screaming direction that sounds a million miles away from the first three tracks. Before album closer “Realize My Fate” comes on like a funeral procession, as Baldi tackles his own mortality with chugging rhythms, dark melodies, death-marching toms and a mantra that gives way to desperate screams in the dark. It’s an intense, abrupt and final way to bring things to an end.

Life Without Sound definitely peaks towards the middle, where it blends the sweet pop sound of the first few songs and the gutsy, angst-ridden malaise of Here and Nowhere Else perfectly. But there’s enough going on to get into your head, get into your blood and make you feel what they’re feeling.

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The Burger Chronicles #24 – Stokey Bears, Buffalo Blue (Chicken Burger)

I’ve been drooling over Stokey Bears’ new Buffalo Blue chicken burger for weeks on Instagram. And finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to have it. I talk a likeminded buddy into tagging along (all it takes is a well chosen Stokey Bears Instagram post) and off we go.

We breeze into Mother Kelly’s first, for pre-burger beers, cheese fumes and bearded craft banter. There’s a friendly Howling Hops promo dude with an almighty beard handing out free samples when we arrive, so, obligingly, we knock back a few mini West Coast Special IPAs, Ruby Reds and Double Chocolate Coffee Toffee Vanilla Milk Porters (wow). Before coughing up for some Beavertown Applelation Bramley Apple Saisons and a round of Verdant Brewing Roy, I Want A Hi-Lux Pale Ales.

Feeling on top of the world, we exit Mother Kelly’s, turn left into Stoke Newington Church Street and tractor beam our way to Stokey Bears. Full steam ahead.

I do like the Stokey Bears vibe. Casual, California Games chic with added Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. The smell’s unmistakeable. A combination of grilled beef patties and sweet, tangy bacon jam. But I can’t get distracted. Tonight’s mission is clear. I stick to my guns and order the Buffalo Blue.

When the burger arrives it’s as pretty as its picture. No Catfish here; blue cheese slaw, spring onion, fried chicken thighs, buffalo and blue cheese sauce, AND pickles. The chicken reminds me of Bird Restaurants’, as its impossibly light and crispy exterior gives way to a soft, tender, juicy chicken thigh centre. The blue cheese slaw’s incredible. And the buffalo and blue cheese sauce coat the walls of my ecstasy riddled mouth as I chew.

It’s decadent, yet light and fresh at the same time. Crunchy. Succulent. Rich. And delicious. Like perfect New York buffalo wings with an overload of blue cheese and slaw… in a bun! I consider ordering another one, a takeaway encore, but “chicken” out at the last minute.

Shock/Horror – Blink 182 Turn California Into A Double Album

Damn, the deluxe version of Blink 182’s 2016 album California, due out May 19, does look pretty badass. Better than the original, even. But 11 new songs?!!? Come on. I thought the original had four or five songs too many already. At least!

Then again, stoke-building teaser single “Parking Lot” does sound like it should have/could have made the first draft. Let’s say I’m curious, in a guilty pleasure, “I guess this is growing up” kind of way. Still, I strongly suspect cutting both versions down to the strongest 10 or 12 songs would have made for one hell of a solid comeback album.

Sum 41 Live At The Kingston Hippodrome – Oh to Be Young Again…

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I love away trips to Kingston. The place has got such a small town, outsider feel. Like a cool version of Pietermaritzburg, back in South Africa. This is especially evident when tonight’s crowd sings along wildly to System of A Down’s “Toxicity” and Papa Roach’s perennial hit, “Last Resort.” I haven’t seen dudes undo their ponytails and headbang like that since Maritzburg. But tonight, we’re here to celebrate the nostalgic rebirth of Canadian punk rockers Sum 41. Unless you’re one of the 14 year olds posting Instagram Stories. Then you’re just a giddy, contemporary music fan.

Over the course of the past two decades, Sum 41 have gone from small town, Ajax, Ontario pop-punk heroes to world-dominating stadium rockers. So tonight’s show, at the comparatively tiny Kingston Hippodrome, is something special. When I breeze in and almost bump into the stage, I can’t believe quite how small it is. I spot a balcony just above me, climb the staircase and secure an awesome vantage point to drink it all in.

Gut-wrenching St. Albans pop punkers Trash Boat are halfway through their blistering opening set. The pace is full-throttle, but the band still saves time for classically brooding, late ’90s/early 2000s emo sentiment – like reading “letters… kept safe,” and “bleeding on this page.” Does anyone, other than my mum, still write letters? Drummer Oakley Moffatt is especially impressive, as is singer Tobi Duncan’s scream/sing mic control. But Trash Boat’s half hour of power is up. It’s time for the main course.

I still remember Sum 41’s classic MTV Cribs episode, filmed on location at former drummer Stevo32’s parent’s house. Now, listen up kids. This was before YouTube and online streaming, so I had to tape it on VHS to show it to friends. Obviously, the band’s come a long way since then, taking in singer Deryck Whibley’s notorious boozing problems and near-death experience, as well as various member changes. Tonight, though, they’re almost back to that original lineup, plus third guitarist Tom Thacker and newish drummer Frank Zummmo. But it wouldn’t have been the same without original guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh. So glad he’s back.

Sum 41 breeze on stage at 9:00pm sharp, to AC/DC’s “TNT,” and I have to say, I’m a little starstruck. Especially when they launch into “The Hell Song” – I think I downloaded the music video from Punk Rock Vids and watched it a hundred times. Straight afterwards, the set’s contemporised by new single “Fake My Own Death.” Zummo is immense behind Sum 41’s signature two bass drums. A proper athlete, backed up by his marathon-runner’s energy drink and Zummo-branded drummer’s vest.

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Tonight’s definitely special and sum 41 feel it too. Turns out they were meant to have the day off, before their big headlining show at Brixton Academy tomorrow night. But somehow, as they do, Banquet Records talked them into playing this one-off special intimate show for the fans. And to celebrate, Sum 41 have loaded their set with hits from the vault.

“This feels like when we started the band, in ’97 or ’98, in East Toronto,” says Whibley, introing “What I Believe.” “This song’s off Half Hour of Power, and I don’t think we’ve played it since Half Hour of Power.”

After the song, the spiky-haired frontman takes some time out to talk Trump, rebranding “Sick of Everyone” as “Sick of Trump.” The song’s from the band’s Brownsound-less, My Chemical Romance-ish, Screaming Bloody Murder phase, and as such, not one I’m familiar with. But it’s followed by “Fat Lip,” which gets the biggest cheer of the night.

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The crowd’s literally throbbing. Bouncing in unison to the 16-year-old song that sounds as fresh as the day it was written. I spot Banquet Records’ Jon Tolley up front, catching crowd surfers and escorting them to safety. Earlier I’d seen him carrying barriers and even a mixing desk. The guy works hard, and Banquet Records truly lives its “more than your local record store” mantra.

To most people, Sum 41’s a pop punk band mentioned alongside Blink 182, New Found Glory and Good Charlotte. But if you know them, and look beyond their breakout singles, they’re full-blown shredders. Brownsound’s solos are NUTS! The very definition of face-melting. And finally, I get Rancid guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s expression “knuckle tight.”

Sum 41 end their set with “In Too Deep,” followed by the most predictable encore in the history of rock ‘n roll. And finally, after a quick blast through “Over My Head (Better Off Dead),” they’re done. What a night. I’m still tingling as step outside, into the welcome embrace of the cold winter air and head for the station.

Jerred Fest! Flyer Design – Adiós

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Jerred Lazar, our friend and Paperjets bassist, is moving back to America. And to celebrate/commiserate, we’re checking out of semi-retirement and throwing a party. Here’s the flyer I designed for the show. Two options…

The gig also features regret punk flag wavers The Burnt Tapes, acoustic acts Rehearted (Jerred/Paperjets) and Ian Crook (The Burnt Tapes), and special (full band) guests Voldemort (aka they who must not be named). The show’s at Urban Bar in Whitechapel on March 25…

Wavves – You’re Welcome (New Album, Two New Songs)

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These days, even seemingly intelligent people can’t tell the difference between “you’re” and “your” – thank YOU Ross Geller. It’s gotten to the point where I’m scared that “you’re” will eventually cease to exist, replaced by a unanimous, landslide, QWERTY vote and relegated to the depths of obscurity. So I’m all for its proliferation. As such, news that everyone’s favourite noisemakers, Wavves, are back with new album You’re Welcome is twice as sweet.

Apparently, Wavves didn’t enjoy their 15 minutes as a major label band on Warner Bros. Records. And subsequently, the followup to 2015’s V is due out May 19 on the band’s own label Ghost Ramp.

Speaking to The FADER, Williams said, “It was anarchy. Nobody knew what they were doing. Turnover rate was like an American Apparel. It was really all cons — unless you’re a cash cow. For everyone else, major labels can’t help you. Maybe at one time they could, but that time is dead.”

Ahead of You’re Welcome‘s release, Wavves have shared two new singles, “Daisy” and the album’s title track. Feast your ears…