New Favorites: Cloud Nothings and the Virtue of Emo

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Abr 3 2012, 8h24

The lead singer/guitarist/visionary of Cloud Nothings is twenty-years old. His band’s latest album, Attack on Memory, is superficially posed as a “mature” record. I’ve sensed over the past year or two that I’ve become an adult, or at least one of some sort, I suppose, so why the fuck is this blatant attempt at posturing as something that a twenty-year old, in this day and age, cannot comprehensibly be, resonating so deeply with me?

I’ve realized: the strength of the Cloud Nothings---whose record I am only on the second listen of---is in their very youth and lack of true, authentic “adulthood” or “maturity.” It’s unbelievable: by the time you’re my age (or at least a critic’s age, these days) you have to bottle yourself up appropriately before transmitting raw, heartfelt lyrics, in order to be taken seriously, or alternatively, be a younger cat who indulges himself in the superficialities modern culture has romanticized as being “youthful.”

All that falls away as the 20-year-old-white-kid-from-Cleveland screams with ultimate dissonance, “I THOUGHT I WOULD BE MORE THAN THIS!!!” over and over again to conclude 9-minute epic “Wasted Days,” which admirably bats second in the album’s batting order. It’s great for all the reasons Titus Andronicus are great, except Titus Andronicus hide behind the pretext of inebriation in order to convey such youthful outrage (this is not meant to be a dig at Titus Andronicus---I totally relate, “A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts after all, right?").

Here’s the thing though, Cloud Nothings sound like a band of boys—which, for the first time in forever---I consider a good thing for a “serious” band. It’s not that I’ve come to some sudden, external realization about the purposes that a youthful music group that wants to appear older than it actually can serve. Cloud Nothings demonstrated the virtues of true, inert youthfulness inadvertent shining through in a band's calculated, armored shell of maturity within their very music. Young adults, namely people in my age group beginning in their mid-20s and up through, I guess, the time where they start raising a family, are often an inverse of the very persona Cloud Nothings inadvertently create on this album: matured, jaded individuals projecting an external shell of youthful vigor.

Here’s the crux of this album’s greatness: We’ve seen many attempts to project an external maturity concealing an internal youthfulness that failed because, to be way too glib, the individuals attempting to project this external maturity proved either too inept or too purely youthful, in mentality and spirit at least, to accomplish this goal (SEE: Pretty much every band categorized as Emo). With Cloud Nothings, however, we see a very real breaching of the invisible wall between apparent youthfulness and apparent maturity. That damn kid who less than a year before this album’s release was still a teenager is either the greatest musical chameleon in a generation, spent his high school years hung out with way too many people at least five years his senior, or some combination of two. What he’s definitely not is someone who is truly mature. Yet, he projects himself, almost always convincingly, and at times, seemingly unmistakably as one of our own (“our” being adults). The Cloud Nothings offer up music for individuals who have consigned themselves to the eroding dignity that can come with adulthood. From individuals too young to truly understand the plight their older brethren are going through, but at the very least an idea of what’s transpiring. It’s like Angels & Airwaves, except opposite in every respect.

To me, this album is the equivalent of strong, able bodied youth reaching over the cliff of unsatisfying adulthood to save listeners who might just be hanging on by a branch. The Cloud Nothings can sing as rawly and intensely about how they thought they would be “more than this” --without sounding pathetic—because you can hear in their music the innate sense of potential the band---and more precisely, that twenty-year-old kid, still senses that it holds. And that’s really what youth is, right? The innate sensing of potential. That kind of energy. And hearing it, in this format, underlying such closely-held adult themes as are explored in this album with reckless abandonment…it makes you reopen your eyes to your own potential, and all the grand possibilities that your life still holds. Hell, you’re only twenty-five.

Just a great album.

Cloud Nothings

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