Wavves’ Nathan Williams and Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi have so closely treaded the same path that it’s a wonder they never tripped over each other along the way. Each began their band as a one-man project, writing prickly, lo-fi garage-pop songs about being bored and disaffected. As they scaled those projects into full bands, each increasingly channeled the snarled angst of ’90s alterna-punk, with neither disguising their debt to Nirvana. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that these two kindred spirits strike an immediate chemistry on their joint album, No Life For Me. The only surprise is that two songwriters with loner tendencies saw fit to partner together in the first place.
Recorded over two stretches at Williams’ home studio—the second of which, as helpfully noted on cover art that doubles as liner notes, concluded just weeks before the album’s release—No Life For Me finds both Williams and Baldi at their most economical, firing off nine songs over a swift 22 minutes. The two co-wrote most of these tracks together, which would explain why most of them are packed with enough hooks for two songs. “Come Down” rides a cruising riff that only gets more tightly wound with each repetition. “Nervous” opens like a post-punk song sped up to 78 rpm, giddy with anticipation of the power-pop payoff that lies at the end. Sometimes Williams and Baldi mirror each other so well that it’s difficult to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins; at other times they double-team these songs good cop/bad cop style, one crooning sweetly while the other fumes. Both seem to relish singing backup as much as they do lead.
For the record’s closing combo, Williams and Baldi each contribute a lone songwriting credit. Williams’ “Such A Drag,” with its grungy surf riff, is unsurprisingly the album’s most Wavves-esque number, while Baldi’s tender “Nothing Hurts” is the closest No Life For Me comes to a ballad. With some polish, that track could’ve made for a knockout closer on a Cloud Nothings album, but here it’s little more than a sketch, a pleasant thought that comes and goes in under two minutes. And really, it’s no worse for that first-take feel. Both Baldi and Williams are prolific songwriters whose outputs have slowed as they’ve signed to bigger labels and logged more time in real studios, recording on real budgets with real producers. No Life For Me offers a vital reminder of how sharp these two sound even when they’re stripped of those resources.