Change is good, they say. They, being the executive class, just before they introduce a new company policy designed to screw the worker and pad the profits. Change is exciting, they’ll say that, too, as with a straight face they try to convince themselves and you that these new health benefits, worse than last year’s and worse than five year’s prior by a factor of ten, are actually better for you and your family.
I happen to like change. Does that make me crazy? I’ve heard that one and the answer is yes, especially in the context of an unpopular company reorganization. Oh, let me correct myself. That would be in the context of a strategic maneuver desinged to allow our department to respond to challenges more quickly in the ever evolving marketplace. And let me assure you, they said, this change was not considered lightly. We must change to be more efficient and meet objectives and stay competitive and make me look like a genius in a room with other suits who are quietly scheming their own brilliant changes and if I don’t propose a change before someone else proposes a change I’ll never get that corner office.
They’ll never say that last part out loud. Nor, is that last part written in the book of change, you know, that book with cutesy references to fish or cheese, the one executives hand to the worker bees to prove to you that all of their change is for your benefit. All you need to do is learn how to accept change.
Corporate jobs have conditioned a vast segment of populatiion to immediately associate the word change with getting screwed. The truth is, there is the rare change, and it always comes with adjectives like positive, or a noun like hope, that truly is an improvement over the status quo.
When the Cleveland indie rock band, Cloud Nothings, first emerged on the scene, they were little more than the bedroom recording project of one Dylan Baldi. The young man sure could write a two-and-half-minute pop song, however, and those talents would get noticed. Quickly, the band, and its plentiful singles, were being featured on influential website like Pitchfork and Stereogum. And, just as swiftly, their sugar-fueled, lo-fi pop would resonate with Clevelanders, now crowding venues like the Beachland, first the small room in the Tavern and later the Ballroom, hoping to see one of our own break big on the national stage.
There were two albums, one a collection of those early singles, and a second of new material. There were tours, too many to count. Dylan Baldi and the Cloud Nothings, now a cohesive band, had become a consistent draw in clubs, not just in Cleveland, but across the states.
Yet, unknown to those who had fallen in love with this unassuming quartet, change was on its way. The first sign came in the summer of 2011 during a sparsely attended in-store performance at Cleveland’s Music Saves. This night it was just Baldi, a guitar and a tiny amp. Near the end of the set, he just kinda tossed it out there that this would be the last time you’d hear any of those old songs. Most surely took Baldi’s statement to mean a new album was being made. Sweet! Few, would have guessed at what was to follow.
Attack on Memory, the Steve Albini-produced second album, was harder, heavier, and more focused than anything the Cloud Nothings had released to date. Drummer Jayson Gerycz was no longer the secret weapon, known only to those who witnessed his animal-like, all arms and sweat, performances on the kit in person, but, along with bassist TJ Duke, he became the key to the bruising rhythm section. Guitarist Joe Boyer underwent a similar transformation. Who knew that someone previously counted on to play loose, jangly chords could shred? Joe Boyer shreds on “Wasted Days.”
The leap made be Baldi as a songwriter is almost incomprehensible. Where once the cranked out quick pop numbers, he now led the presentation of a dynamic and varied suite of songs from straight up power pop to more complicated constructions free of the choruses and sing-a-longs which were his previous trademark.
And wouldn’t you know it? The executives were right. Any worthwhile change would be embraced, they said. The Cloud Nothings’ popularity exploded. The band booked late night tv performances. They played the Rock Hall. They played on festival stages across the United States and Europe. They, literally, could not be stopped. At the 2012 Pitchfork Music Festival, their afternoon set was interrupted by a torrential rain. They didn’t run for shelter as water puddled at their feet. No, they kept on rocking on even after the power cut out (skip to 1:15:00 to see what I mean).
Change is good and the change the Cloud Nothings made from pop-band to a forceful, rock band is even better.
Congratulations to Cloud Nothings, I Rock Cleveland’s 2012 artist of the year.