Last Building Burning is a case study in controlled chaos. It’s frantic, energetic and downright sloppy at times. But Cloud Nothings, like most good punk bands, have mastered the art of wielding that chaotic sound and harnessing it in the right ways at the appropriate moments. They have the perfect feel for when a song needs a tense, climbing build to an epic release, or the right moments to unleash jagged, harsh screaming vocals. The result is a rock solid modern punk album that makes for a fun, quick listen.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: the vocal tracks on this album are up and down. In some songs, such as “The Echo Of The World” and “Another Way of Life,” the vocals are actually quite good. Lead singer Dylan Baldi controls the punchy growl of his voice to create excellent punk rock vocals. But others, like “On An Edge,” “Offer An End” and “So Right So Clean” could use improvement, and the vocals stand out as the biggest weakness in these songs. The vocals aren’t bad by any stretch–it’s not as if Baldi can’t hold a tune–but when he fails to rein in the aggressiveness in his voice, the vocals often become dissonant, jarring and difficult to understand. This is certainly a matter of taste, as one could easily make the argument that the harsh dissonance of Baldi’s screaming vocals perfectly reflects the attitude and nature of these punk rock-oriented songs. But too often they come across as overly coarse and excessive, and despite the bright spots scattered throughout the album, vocals are the clear weakness on Last Building Burning.
Outside of that, this album is exactly what one might want and expect out of a modern punk album. The instrumentals possess the key elements of good punk: chugging, overdriven power chords, simple and catchy melodies that don’t overstay their welcome and light-speed drumming. Drummer Jayson Gerycz really shines throughout the whole album. All good punk rock drummers are inevitably compared to Travis Barker, and while that’s an unfair comparison for any mere mortal, Gerycz possesses the same ability to play at incredible speeds while retaining impeccable technique. It’s rare that percussion stands out in a full-band context, but on any given track on Last Building Burning, Gerycz demands your attention.
The album isn’t just a straight punk rock offering, however. “Dissolution” has more traditional indie rock roots–particularly in its guitar work–and “In Shame” feels more like a mid-2000s pop punk radio hit, which is definitely a good sound for Cloud Nothings, as this is a fun, catchy track.
The album perhaps saves the best for last, as the final track “Another Way of Life” is among the album’s strongest. It’s the band’s bread and butter–a high-octane punk progression layered on top of some killer drumming. Baldi’s vocals are perhaps at their best on this song as well. The lead guitar melodies are smooth and accentuate the rest of the song perfectly. It’s a fitting ending to a chaotic, high-energy album.
It’s not without its weaknesses, but Last Building Burning is the perfect album for punk fans looking for something new. It will make listeners want to get up and move (and possibly start punching each other). In spite of some occasionally lackluster vocals, the instrumentals on this album are excellent, particularly in the drumming department. Punk, hardcore and indie rock fans should most certainly give Last Building Burning a listen.