Kevin Greenspon and Cloud Nothings

It would’ve been apropos for Bridgetown to subtitle this split between Kevin Greenspon and Cloud Nothings “The Master and the Apprentice.” That is, of course, if you consider the last nine months a crash course for Cloud Nothing’s Dylan Baldi in becoming one of the heartland’s masters of lo-fi bedroom-bred pop songs. I claimed they were tunes scraped from the shoebox when I first heard his Turning On tape, but I have continually returned to those songs and have reconsidered his mettle to be something others are already xeroxing into their own oeuvres. With a steady flow of material, each batch better primed and primped than the last (not to mention assembling a crack staff to pull if off live), Baldi is becoming a brand of his own. I’ve been hounded by Carpark Records to give him even more face-time here, simply because they are re-releasing Turning On, a record I gushed about months ago, but I’ve chosen to focus on how the guy is progressing. And the five songs displayed here (whenever they were written) show that progression.

But back to Greenspon. The LA native is one of those artists who have little regard to fidelity, little use for songs over two minutes, and little care about how you interpret his indecipherable lyrics surrounding nostalgia and love-lite come-ons—much like Baldi, so in essence the split is a perfect match and a perfect stage to showcase Greenspon’s apprenticeship. “Post-Life,” with its driving, but distant, riffs, reminds me fondly of No Pocky for Kitty-era Superchunk, perhaps infiltrated by JAMC. In fact, Greenspon’s campaign on the split has a similarly ’90s feel. The Archers, Small Factory, Silkworm—all fit into this mold of ramshackle indie-pop that Greenspon seems fond of. “Carpool Pepsi,” again with the nostalgic vibes, wins the prize here, bouncy and fuzzy with all the indifference and slack you’d expect from this year’s crop of basement heroes. “Growing Up” is what defines Greenspon’s intent; while the song chugs in distorted generics, the half-handed vocals drowning underneath it all lend Greenspon’s writing a character that is wholly endearing.

Greenspon is indeed the apprentice here, though, as Baldi’s contribution to the split shows him playing more intricate arpeggios (especially on the brilliant, but brief, instrumental “Underwater We Make Friends”) and faster, meatier chords that hew closer to punk than pop. Even Baldi’s voice has an urgency that would befit hardcore on the catchy, yet visceral, “You’re Not Good At Anything.” Of course, when it comes to being “master” of his own domain, “I Apologize” is what one should expect from Cloud Nothings by now—that is mid-tempos, shimmering guitars butting heads with fuzz, and enough space to truly feel Baldi’s heartache and plea for forgiveness. This is the stuff the kids are clamoring for, but I’ll take his more determined, fiery punk-pop over the sap any day of the week. Surely the purpose of this split was to place a spotlight on the lesser known Greenspon, but it also serves as a reminder that Baldi is continuing to surprise and reward anyone who’s willing to salvage through the lo-fi muck.
Kevin J. Elliott