Thursday, February 16, 2012

Album Review: Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

Having just been Pitchfork’d, I don’t have to tell you too much about the hype surrounding this album. Cloud Nothings have moved away from the hazy, reverb-drenched sound of their past and made a conscious effort to move into a darker, noisier territory that serves them surprisingly well. It greatly separates them from their peers who are all adapting a sound similar to their former selves. With Attack on Memory, I am reminded of great 90s bands like Silkworm. This is appropriate given the production from Steve Albini, known for his work with the aforementioned band as well as Pixies, Nirvana, and The Smashing Pumpkins. His mark is all over this release and his production techniques give the instruments room to breathe while framing their more abrasive qualities.

In a recent interview, 20-year-old frontman Dylan Baldi admits that the title is a reference to “an attack on the memory of what people thought the band was.” It’s no surprise that he was even considering changing the band name. Opening track “No Future/No Past” establishes a feeling of desperation that plays through the entirety of the record. The playful jangle of their past is nowhere to be found on the song. Surrounded by sparse piano and throbbing bass, the lines “Give Up / Come to / No Hope / We’re Through” are repeated on the first half of the track. It’s all leading to the climax were guitars and cymbals clash as Baldi screams “No future! / No past!” If there was any doubt that this was a different band it was put to rest right there.

In the past it, everything was written and performed by Baldi but now the adjoining members are in on the writing process. Nowhere is this more evident than on the nearly 9 minute second track, “Wasted Days”. The raucous punk jam showcases the talents of all the band members and exhibits their ability to play off one another. The song possesses you. At first, you’re calmly listening to it; but before you know it, you are running around like a madman throwing things around the room and screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs. The monstrous drum sound, an Albini signature, propels the song to epic proportions and makes it so there isn’t a boring second.

The second half of the album gives the listener a breather from the relentlessness of the beginning. “Stay Useless” may be the best pop song that Baldi has penned yet. The crunchy yet jangly guitars and sense of urgency is reminiscent of early records by The Strokes. “Separation”, the instrumental that follows, is simply a vehicle for creative guitar tones and driving punk rhythms while serving as an excellent segue.

The production definitely shines on the later songs. It’s raw yet gives the instrumentation plenty of space, which makes the songs even more foreboding. “Our Plans” has another sing along chorus with declarations of “No one knows our plans for us/We won’t last long.” The lyrics throughout are somewhat dismal bordering on emo; however, contrary to what one might think, they never sound immature. The simplicity and sincerity keep them from feeling melodramatic and instead portray them as blunt confessionals.

In the previously mentioned interview, Baldi explains his intentions with this record:
“My favorite records are by bands where the musicians are all playing like themselves, but those personalities connect in an exciting way and create music that is one cohesive unit. It's not catchy like a pop song, but it's a really cool song. That's the end goal for us. Attack on Memory isn't like that the whole way through, but I'm hoping the next album can keep moving in that direction.”
He ends up giving the perfect summation of his own record. Songs like “Wasted Days” are as cool and engaging as music gets, but the album quickly winds down to an abrupt and uneventful conclusion. At around just half an hour, the length is somewhat concerning especially given that a good portion of it is taken up by “Wasted Days”. If they have the chance to expand on what they have done here and work with another quality producer, it’s scary to think of what they can accomplish. The band is doing something right if they leave you wanting more.

4.0 / 5.0

Favorite Track: "Wasted Days"

You can catch Cloud Nothings when they play Brighton Music Hall on Sunday, March 25th with A Classic Education and The Dirty Dishes.

"No Future/No Past"

"Stay Useless"

"No Sentiment"

No comments:

Post a Comment