Fresh out of the NYC womb, dressed in what may as well have been second-hand suits from the Killers, the Cloud Room drummed up some serious buzz at this year’s SXSW festival. But their self-titled debut, on New York independent label Gigantic Music, can hardly hold up to the hype.
Mellower than Hot Hot Heat, happier than Interpol, and humbler than British Sea Power, the Cloud Room performs a blend of vintage styles that have enjoyed a renaissance in popular and indie circles for almost half a decade. That’s not to say that we’ve always enjoyed it too – like many of their peers, the Cloud Room doesn’t do much with their first album but advance a borrowed aesthetic. A few fantastic songs sprinkled amongst a larger body of yawners are not enough to salvage the collection from mediocrity.
The consummately infectious first single and album opener “Hey Now Now” (excerpt) makes a damn good go of it. Threatening to forge a unique and confident sound in a scene of imitators, it’s the song that has been spreading the Cloud Room name around the world. Just two tracks away on the record is another highlight – the sexy, energetic sing-along “Blackout” (excerpt). Anchoring the second half of the album are “The Hunger,” which rehashes “Hey Now Now”‘s Bowie-meets-Duran Duran approach, and “We Sleep in the Ocean,” which finds lead singer J mimicking Ian McCulloch to a T.
Other than that, there’s not much to grab onto. The Cloud Room worked through many bad ideas to discover a few good ones, and unfortunately committed the entire process to tape. The few moments of brilliance are drowned out by what must’ve been a severe case of writer’s block. Promise and potential isn’t enough to keep this band from being another failed experiment in ’80s revivalism. Here’s to hoping their follow-up proves me wrong.