“I’m Not Part of Me”
by Chad Jewett
You get the sense that Cloud Nothings have a conflicted relationship with their own likability. “I’m Not Part of Me” is comfortable and melody-rich; its pleasant knack for a riff and a hook belies the ways Dylan Baldi might be trying to de-center us by first giving us the last song from his newest record; by beginning his outro statement with “It starts right now;” by claiming “I’m not telling you what I’m going through.” Nothing is easy, except for the sheer amount of fuzz-pop smarts. The afterthought protest of “I feel fine” seems half-hearted, though maybe we just don’t tend to believe that sort of thing when everything around it sounds like the kind of sweetly glum indie rock that never feels fine. If Attack on Memory was all about minor-key Sunny Day Real Estate gloom (and a different kind of “difficulty” courtesy of Steve Albini, though I get the sense he was mainly playing solitaire on his phone while the tape rolled) then “I’m Not Part of Me” scans like the day in your mid-teens when you triangulate Diary, Something To Write Home About and realize that Tim or Let It Be constitutes the other angle.
Indeed, there’s plenty of Westerberg in both the song’s garage-mildew crunch and in Baldi’s ever-improving balance of cynicism and sentiment. If there’s such a thing as “happy bastard” music, that’s the territory where Cloud Nothings seem to be joining the ‘Mats (and maybe Superchunk). The song ping-pongs between seemingly opposed hook-theses, refusing to share one moment, reminders of “You’re a part of me” the next. If “Bastards of Young” had a lot of its fun with the contradicting negatives of “We are the sons of no one,” leaving you debating questions of nihilism, soured need, or freedom, then you can imagine Cloud Nothings calculating all the ways they can catch us off guard with a statement like “I’m not, I’m not you; You’re a part of me, You’re a part of me.” And all of this on a song called “I’m Not Part of Me,” from a record called Here And Nowhere Else, in case you didn’t get that this is a band that really enjoys loops of affirmation and denial. You’d think it has to be one or the other, but on a first listen that will eventually be our last, a song that softens a past album’s minor-key panic attacks into major-key exhaustion and sweetness, I doubt you could convince Cloud Nothings that anything’s out of place in a solid four minutes of contradiction. You’ll probably catch yourself trying to figure out the song’s tangled ideas about connection and distance, but you’ll also catch yourself humming it.