REVIEW: Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Ohio natives Cloud Nothings emerged in 2009 as a means for Dylan Baldi to create breezy, lo-fi garage punk. With their third album in as many years, Attack on Memory seems like the record that it has all been leading up to. Not content with the style before, the band seemed to have moved on and gone in a very different direction. It’s helped them find their voice and truly stand out; it feels like a band reborn.

Attack on Memory is the first Cloud Nothings album that was recorded with a fully-formed band behind it, as opposed to Baldi recording in his bedroom on his own. As far as the music goes, this is a massive advantage and it shows on the record. The arrangements are a lot more complex than they have ever been before, and it helps output the ferocity and angst buried within the record.

Baldi‘s vocals have a very raw nature to them, not dissimilar to that of Kurt Cobain and other grunge vocalists of the 90’s, while at other times it shares similarities to Julian Casablancas. The guitar work on the album have very basic textures to them, virtually free from any effects or distortion. This helps keep the music very grounded and works well in unison with Baldi‘s piercing vocals. The band have enlisted the help of Steve Albinito produce the album this time around. Having previously worked with bands such as The Pixies, Electrelane and Let’s Wrestle, the album was put in well-experienced hands. Albini‘s input on the recording is apparent and he’s definitely helped them truly realise their full potential.

Album opener ‘No Future/No Past‘ is certainly an unexpected song to start things off with. It’s bleak, droning tones are very much unlike the band’s sugar-coated power-pop of yore. The song shows a lot more complexity than their previous work, with a wider range of instrumentation and a slow-burning atmosphere that just builds up and up. The song culminates in Baldi screaming ‘no future, no past‘ over and over. It’s a great introduction to the new direction the band has gone in.

The album varies in style throughout, but they all carry that same raw passion. The radio-friendly ‘Stay Useless‘ has a Strokes-like aesthetic to it, while ‘Separation’ is a 3-minute instrumental track that lets the band unleash all their energy onto record. ‘No Sentiment‘ is a track which is set at full-throttle, in which Baldilaments ‘We started a war / attack on memory / no easy way out / forget everything‘ with a whispering quality that contrasts with his otherwise abrupt vocals nicely.

Very much against the prior nature of Cloud Nothings is the sprawling ‘Wasted Days‘. At 9-minutes in length, it is very unexpected from a band who would previously rarely reached the 4-minute mark in a song. The song is fierce and exhilarating, with Baldi shouting ‘I thought I would be more than this‘ before breaking down into a harmony of heavy drumming and guitars that just keep building on one another. The track ends with the return of Baldi’s familiar chant to see it off.

It might take some time for loyal listeners to adjust to the newfound direction, but Attack on Memory is without a doubt the best record Cloud Nothings have produced to date and shows a definitive evolution of the band. It’s an album that grows and grows on you until it’s right under your skin. It’s astonishing to think that this is the same band who recorded the eponymous Cloud Nothings just one year ago. Attack on Memory has cemented the band as kind of a big deal, and if this is a sign of things to come, exciting times are ahead.


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