Bill Gates, legal weed, apathetic punk music, and coffee. What do all these have in common? I guess it could be a really buzzed out Bill Gates, but the more common answer is his birthplace- Seattle (Washington). “Grunge is dead” a widespread misconception since the face of grunge music, Kurt Cobain, died in 1994. Sure, the Seattle music industry did try and sign a bunch of phony punk rockers in a sort of post-grunge era in a desperate attempt to capitalize on the profits of its predecessors- but those efforts ultimately failed. But is grunge/punk long gone? Here’s a group of D.I.Y. musicians that not only share a similar sound as some of the ‘Seattle Greats’ (Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), but also a similar sense of passion, urgency, and determination. A four-piece New Jersey punk rock band that is touring proof that ‘grunge is dead’ is only a hipster slogan.
The group is compromised of Dan Matthews (Guitar/Vocals), Rob Blake (Guitar/Vocals), Gary Moses (Bass), and Cory King (Drums). The Black Clouds music is written by these guys, produced and recorded by them, and their tour was entirely self-funded. These dudes are the epitome of D.I.Y. rock n’ rollers. Having played at SXSW in 2010 and with a 25 show US tour around the entire country (in 30 days) under their belt who knows what’s next for The Black Clouds (and I’m just scratching the surface on their accolades here). Their latest artwork entitled “Better Days” was released this past January. Here’s a general overview of what to expect when you press play.
The Sound: As I mentioned in the intro paragraph of this review their influences are definitely noticeable. In terms of vocals and guitar riffs if you listen to the songs “Again” and “I’ll be Gone” I don’t think anyone could disagree that they sound like something off of Nirvana’s debut album ‘Bleach’ (maybe this is Bleach 2.0.). But, ‘Better Days’ isn’t a total copy and paste project. In the songs “Fray” and “Stalemate” the scratchy vocals and screams are definitely a distinct Dan Matthews signature. The guitar and bass work is also pretty different from typical grunge. Where guys like Kurt mostly played power chords, these guys incorporate some hard-hitting-distortion-cranking guitar riffs with massive amounts of palm muting thrown in. That being said, The Black Clouds aren’t always serious throughout the course of ‘Better Days’. A little past mid-album they take a break with the song ‘Blue Blocker’ which is this really easy to digest riff accompanied with lyrics that are just as fun. It’s catchy, it’s neat, it’s different and I don’t think any of us were expecting that.
The Production: For what my opinion is worth, I would say this album is right on point with what the guys where trying to achieve in their artwork. I looked for maybe the one song on Better Days where the guitars or the drums overpower the vocals, but I just couldn’t find it. The drums were tight, and the layering of the vocals was spot on. All in all, this leaves me with little to say about the production aspect of this album except that these guys know what they’re doing.
Stream The Entire Album: Here.
- The Black Clouds – in the Spotlight (thelevityball.com)