Review: Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Published on February 7th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The buzz: Cleveland rockers release third studio album in as many years, and the first as a full band rather than as a veiled Dylan Baldi solo project. Production by the legendary Steve Albini [Nirvana, Pixies, Manic Street Preachers, PJ Harvey], recorded largely ‘live’ with the band all playing at once. Baldi, apparently still just 20 years old, claims that Attack on Memory accounts for just one of three albums’ worth of material that he wrote while working on this, and that the next album will be “Zydeco music”.
“No Future/No Past”
Sounds like: A whole new band, and that’s because it is. The exuberant, lo-fi power-pop of last year’s self-titled album has given way to something rather more monstrous, the evolution of Cloud Nothings into a four-headed beast eliciting an expansiveness and willingness to experiment that casts Baldi’s by-turns-desolate-and-guttural vocals as more a ringleader than a mere accessory to the sonic onslaught around him.
Opener “No Future/No Past” trudges along purposefully enough, evidencing the afore-described duality to Baldi’s delivery as if it was some kind of preliminary showcase, but it is the ensuing nine-minute epic “Wasted Days” that truly reels you into Attack on Memory. At first a rip-roaring blast of jangly discordance as Baldi bawls a selection of disaffected vignettes (the subtle cascade applied to the “this” of chorus refrain “I thought I would be more than this” betraying a burgeoning sophistication to his craft), “Wasted Days” surfs its way into an immersive jam atop a fuzzy, beastly monotone bassline while the drums acquire a pounding discipline that contrasts so effectively with their frequent outbursts of astonishing firecracker fills. Seriously impressive stuff.
Although none of the remaining six tracks stray that far beyond the four-minute mark, the pace doesn’t let up; “Fall In” goes from rumbly to punky and back again with a deceptively wistful melody that nudges it towards the thinking man’s corner of the moshpit, “Stay Useless” draws surprisingly well from a Libertines/Strokes sort of pop sensibility, while the “No-one knows our plans for us/We won’t last long” doom-mongering of “Our Plans” makes for another chorus whose lyrical grievance would appear to be entirely at odds with the bold leaps forward – namely in terms of ambition, instrumentation, presentation and profile – made all around it. There’s even enough confidence in the camp to throw a berserk, crashing instrumental number (“Separation”) into the middle of it all.
“Is he gonna work out?/I need to know/I deserve to know” wails Baldi on broodingly melodic closing track “Cut You”; just tell the man already so he can get on with recording his Zydeco album while in such a rich vein of form.
In a few words: By turns beastly and vulnerable, almost unyieldingly driving and energising. Roll on the next chapter.
Kind of like a cross between: Sunny Day Real Estate and Fugazi