Those like myself who have managed to ignore Cloud Cult for their roughly 20 years of bandhood would do well to hear their 2005 disc, Advice From The Happy Hippopotamus, a 25-track behemoth of creativity that exemplified much of what I love about indie rock: Interesting lyrics, boundless energy, unexpected turns of structure, and crucially, a lightheartedness that made singer Craig Minowa’s lyrics land light as a feather, even at their most potent. Ninth LP Love is a different kind of grandiose, and maturing seems to have reeled in some of the band’s wilder urges.
One can imagine the arena-sized production turning off old fans. Tracks like “1x1x1” and “Sleepwalker” throw thick layers of synth over four-on-the-floor for a Bravery-esque effect—it edges uncomfortably close to the sort of perfect robot-pop that made listeners flock to bands like, well, Cloud Cult in the first place. They still chug from moment-to-different-moment with a sense of structural freedom, but the years seem to have installed a metric ton of gravity—the mood is one of desperation, with strings, synth bloops, and utterly massive guitars combining to create a mega-produced, serious-feeling backdrop.
But align that seriousness with Minowa’s general message (“hurry up and love before you die,” to paraphrase) and you get a work that is focused, relatable, and, although trite, forgivably so, as it hasn’t been made overwrought. I’m not always in lock-step with the record’s direness or philosophical backdrop, but it’s still fun. Their shuffle-mentality mixes it up and is a boon to the work as a whole: “Meet Me Where You’re Going” is clean-cut praise country with their inevitable indie twist, while “Complicated Creation,” my favorite on the record, almost sounds like a direct answer to Modest Mouse’s “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes” in a couple ways—lyrically it reprimands the original for its reactionary bleakness, while the groove and rhythm of the vocal recalls the same snarky funk. Moments like this make Love a consistently engaging listen.
In A Word: Urgent