It’s a chugging, nimble-footed affair, showing a matured and restrained group; no more eight-minute-plus pounding, slashing jams, replaced instead with a sense of clarity and focus, a driving, raw sonic thesis statement.
Life Without Sound bears itself with moral clarity and resolve while rocking damn hard.
More than anything, Life Without Sound finds Cloud Nothings refusing to fall into a rut.
Life Without Sound is a triumph of Baldi’s vision - for something bigger than just hard and heavy punk, and for rock and roll with pop intelligence. He’s pulled off both here.
The biggest transition since the their four-piece’s official debut in 2008 has been merging their calamitous distortion with vital melodies. ‘Life Without Sound’ strikes true in achieving this balance.
Life Without Sound builds on the already impressive groundwork laid by Cloud Nothings’ past three studio albums, but proves how strong the band is as the sum of its parts.
By focusing less on inner tribulations and looking at the broader context of his place in the world, Baldi’s typical impulsivity and urgency of a frenzied youth transforms into the deliberateness of a wiser and more seasoned songwriter.
The production is lighter and more spacious here, and the effect is that the songs grab onto you a little less tightly. The sense of anthemic catharsis is present, but not quite to the same degree.
The band remain an excellent and vital act, still producing worthy music which is head and shoulders over many similar, lesser acts, the problem, it seems, is that their evolution is a slow one.
Maybe introspection and slow work killed some of the freshness and crunchiness of the previous, more spontaneous sound that put Cloud Nothings among the most interesting guitar acts around, but Baldi’s urgency still packs a punch.
They’ve eased back from their most breakneck inclinations, and while Life Without Sound isn’t their strongest work, it’s got the seeds that could lead to their next definitive statement.
By letting go of a little of their rage, Cloud Nothings let more light and shadow into Life Without Sound with promising results.
The cleaned up sound does wonders for Baldi's songwriting, always his strength yet still often overlooked. Producer John Goodmanson shines some much deserved light on the small nuances that make Cloud Nothings' music so intriguing, giving a proper, polished showcase to some of the band's most hook-filled material to date.
Ultimately, Life Without Sound cements Cloud Nothings' place in the indie rock landscape, but beyond offering some real power-pop gems and the most refined production in their discography, it doesn't do much else.
Although Baldi has more observations to share than his previous records – and makes them with snarling passion and versatility – that added maturity isn’t quite matched by his songs yet.
A Cloud Nothings song doesn’t have to have the self-pity of ‘Stay Useless’ to be totally exceptional, but nothing here comes close to that brilliance, that self-deprecating beauty, and it doesn’t feel like it gives it that good a go either. ‘Life Without Sound’ is a sound without life.