The hairless chests and undeveloped talent of Cleveland's Cloud Nothings betrayed their youthfulness. The band began as the bedroom project of then-18-year-old Dylan Baldi, channelling his teenage angst into three-chord lo-fi pop punk songs. Three years and three records later, Baldi is one of four young men refusing to come to terms with their fading teenage angst. Career-wise, Baldi has progressed, but emotionally and lyrically, he doesn't want to, as he professed his desires to remain a shallow ineffectual on their usual set opener "Stay Useless."
Baldi's age was also clearly evident when you heard him sing. In more tuneful moments, he moans and whines shallowly, with no real sense of urgency or developed emotion. When he exerts himself, his voice garbles and, more embarrassingly, squeaks.
There is a hint of Kurt Cobain in Baldi's voice when he attempts to emote, but unlike the Nirvana frontman, there's little substance in Baldi's words. Where Cobain roughly fell in with the slacker movement of the early '90s, which was more about anti-materialism and a rejection of conservative family values than pure sloth, Baldi's lyrics tend to be about doing nothing with his life for no reason ("Wasted Days") while remaining ignorant ("No Sentiment"), which apparently resonates with a post-internet generation lazy enough to just tweet "Who the fuck is Arcade Fire?" instead of actually looking something up.
Luckily, Cloud Nothings played a lot of extended instrumental passages. Though the song structures are unsurprising and the typical alt-rock jangle sound monotonous, they showed decent chemistry when out from under Baldi's suffocating lyrical immaturity. But contrasted by the more mature confidence of Mr. Dream, all of whom graduated college some years ago, the lack of Cloud Nothings life experience was brought into clear relief. These kids need to take a year off, go to India, and get their hearts broken.