What do the punks do when they get older? It’s a question as old as punk, as old as any art born in youth. Do you become a retread, singing the same old songs as the years go by? What about a crank, complaining how things were better in the old days, that kids now owe everything to those who came before? How does a punk ‘age gracefully,’ when the sound is about defying grace? All that may be, but many have pulled it off, from gray hairs to just seeing a few more years pass by. Fronting Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi keeps his edge into a new decade on The Shadow I Remember.
Now, this isn’t some ‘I’m getting older’ album, all about missing kids while touring for the umpteenth time. The loss of the past, the push-pull of fighting vs. embracing the future, is much more subtle, even as the sound is classic Cloud Nothings call. There’s the catchier Cloud such as “Nothing Without You” that still isn’t ‘catchy punk’ (greying Green Day for the masses, this is not), but there’s also the smashing, crashing Nothings power in “Open Rain”. There’s the pressing self-questioning of “Am I Something”, the growing approach to maturity on opener “Oslo”. Even the lower key pieces like “Only Light” and “Nara” have no lack of emotional power.
The past looks particularly different these days, from missing all the things we took for granted pre-COVID, to questioning all the things we accepted pre-BLM, pre-MeToo. But Cloud Nothings are still on fine form with The Shadow I Remember.