The best thing about a double album from Cut Worms is that once you start listening to Cut Worms, you want it to go on and on forever, and with nearly 20 tracks to get lost in, that feels possible. Nobody Lives Here Anymore is 80 minutes of escapism from the mind-numbing chaos of everyday life in present-day America, even as it speaks to the moment. Like all of Max Clarke’s extensive song catalog, the album pays tribute to midcentury pop rock and country, wholesome on the surface, darkness lurking underneath. Nobody Lives Here Anymore listens like a time capsule full of decades-old music you’ve somehow never heard before, sonically and lyrically nostalgic. It is soaked with longing for a simpler, more innocent way of life and an appreciation for uncomplicated things like a stunning desert vista or the kindness of strangers.
Clarke’s voice, with its warm, slightly nasal quality, has a dreamy way of capturing melancholy, and we hear that most on standout “Veteran’s Day,” a song from the perspective of a soldier adjusting to postwar life and still feeling so tender. “Come up in my dream / you won’t come out / You start to see what the mad men are laughing about,” he sings. On “Castle in the Clouds,” another standout, pedal steel guitar glides through like a ghostly background singer as Clarke sings about emptied spaces that now hold nothing by memories and cobwebs. On “Baby Come On” Clarke employs a carnival organ sound and on “God Bless the Day” a tinny piano, effects that help to create the sepia-tinted relic of the past feeling that permeates Nobody Lives Here Anymore.
With so much material to mine, from soft minimal ballads like “Golden Sky” to jaunty hops like “The Heat is On,” Nobody Lives Here Anymore benefits from its expansiveness. It is Cut Worms’ Americana epic, a collage of all the ’50s and ’60s lo-fi doowop, twang, and guitar that makes Clarke’s wheels turn. It is a reminder that however disenchanted we get with life, we can always look back and remember a time when even just the particular color of the sky brought us a bit of unsullied comfort.