Are the 1992 Doc Martens and flannel shirts that are stuffed in the back of your closet whispering sweet nothings to you whenever you open the door? If so, the Black Clouds are a necessity in your life. The New Jersey band has been kicking around since 2004, taking DIY to a whole new level by recording, producing, releasing, and touring for their albums on their own. What’s more, the Black Clouds have managed to do what literally hundreds of bands attempt to do but fail at miserably – revive grunge from its heroin-induced coma.
The emergence of grunge was a blessing to fashion-challenged people with no combs everywhere, not to mention the music was a nice shove to the pop tunes that were dominating the charts at the time. But, much like the punk scene, even at the height of grunge’s popularity in the early 1990s, there were so many bands that were trying to cash in on the hardcore/noise rock sensibilities of the grunge movement, only to sound like cheap imitators. Like punk, the scene is filled with people reminiscing about the good old days of grunge and bands trying to emulate the sounds and styles that resonated with so many Gen Xers at the time. Rarely do any bands succeed – it’s too easy to fall flat on your face and sound like a poseur in grunge than almost any other type of genre, and this is what usually ends up happening. But out of all of the flotsam and jetsam that the imitators washed up on the grunge shores, the Black Clouds stand out by sounding authentically authentic.
Produced by the band and the great John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Turbonegro, Andrew WK, Sonic Youth), Better Days is a testament to the best part of grunge from a band that clearly knows its way around a distortion machine or two. From the hard vocals to the scratchy guitars and minor-keyed tunes, each song on the album sounds like a long-lost Nirvana b-side for Bleach. The Black Clouds take the hardcore elements of grunge and the loud-soft-loud technique perfected by the Pixies to create thirteen songs of pure and abrasive rock and roll.
Songs like “No Reason,” “Defective Mind,” and “I’ll Be Gone” work to aurally roundhouse kick some ass, while “Fray” and “Whereabouts Unknown” takes things down a notch for the listener to catch their breath before the owning begins again. The cocky guitars of “All or Nothing,” “Stalemate,” and “Again” bring to mind the early days of hard grunge, and establish the Black Clouds as not just another band of “inspired” imitators, but a band that is sure of itself and its sound. Unless you were bopping to Haddaway or Duran Duran in 1993, Better Days is sure to be enjoyed by all worshippers of rock, especially those who think hair-combing is totally overrated and plaid is the fashion statement of our time. Pop in Better Days and lace up those Docs – the Black Clouds are here to time warp us all back to some truly better days.
Check out the album on the band’s Soundcloud.