The sixth album from Cloud Nothings doesn’t so much wash over you as hit you like a drink in the face. It’s bracing and quick—but not rushed, or half-done, and not abrasive or unlistenable. The overall sensation of the album is one of efficiency: each song hits its chorus and central idea pretty early, and repeats it throughout the rest of the song. As the phrases repeat, Dylan Baldi’s vocals become more intensified and raw and the music—particularly the drums—become more frenzied as the emotion in each refrain intensifies steadily, reaches a height, and comes down just enough before the finish. The controlled chaos of Cloud Nothings is on display in these 35 minutes, and while the group succeeds in crafting more of what they do well, nothing here feels especially surprising, or able to break out of the mold each track closely adheres to.
The album begins on its most sonically abrasive and least obviously melodic song, “On an Edge.” That tension is appropriate for such a title, but it also does a nifty trick of putting you off just a bit at the start of the album. This works well in aggressively pulling you into the Cloud Nothings universe, and making the resulting tracks seem a bit better in comparison. “Leave Him Now” has a surprisingly ‘90s-esque melody to its refrain, which contributes to its catchiness. “In Shame” continues the whisper of nostalgic pop flavor (yes, pop!) with the typically sober refrain “they won’t remember my name/I’ll be alone in my shame” sounding almost like something a ska-band could produce. Those two tracks are early highlights, followed by “Offer an End,” which is more interesting during its second half which becomes a taut, tense crescendo of rhythm, noise, and feeling. That flows seamlessly into “The Echo of the World,” which is one of the most melodic, even soft, songs on the album. It offers the listener a space to catch their metaphorical (maybe literal) breath before they are plunged into “Dissolution,” the nearly 11-minute climax of the album.
“Dissolution” is primarily instrumental, but it does not suffer for that. With Cloud Nothings, the music can often feel like lyrics, so here the ongoing, astoundingly energetic performances do not make you aware of time passing at all. This song genuinely doesn’t feel any longer than the other songs on the album, which is very impressive to me at least, as someone who is regularly intimidated by double-digit song lengths. The catharsis of “Dissolution” brings into focus a loose emotional theme of the album, with the first five tracks containing lyrics about regret, shame, and frustrated affection. After the stormy sixth track, “So Right So Clean” picks up the pieces with a mix of the melancholic tinge in “The Echo of the World” and the raw vocals and power of tracks like “In Shame” and “On the Edge.” Baldi sings “I wish I could believe in your dream” like someone who has finally come to terms with the fact that he lives in a different world than someone he has been trying to connect to. It’s a little more resigned and accepting than the earlier tracks, and leads into “Another Way of Life” which is relatively optimistic with lyrics reminding you that life “takes time to heal.” The music and Baldi’s vocals here are almost buoyant compared to moments in the previous tracks, and it provides a compelling contrast to “On an Edge.” The two songs are smart bookends for Last Building Burning because they help you feel as if you have gone on an emotional journey—with a buildup, catharsis, and come-down—in such a quick burst of time. It’s a baseline effective journey, but if it allowed for more spontaneity or experimentation it might feel like something more substantial than a splash in the face.