There’s been a lot of ’90s revisiting lately, mostly because it’s been 20-some years since Nirvana’s Nevermind exploded onto the scene. But simply reminiscing while playing these “old” records isn’t enough for some artists, particularly those whose bands’ shelf lives rely on these influences to bring out their sounds. Take Cloud Nothings and their latest LP, Attack On Memory, for example. The title itself can allude to the band’s ability to bring out these almost eerie, ghost-like memories of sounds from bands that struck the early-to-mid-90s alternative era with fervent aggression.
That isn’t to say Cloud Nothings mimics these sounds for nostalgic purposes (the feeling I get listening to bands like shoegazers The Pains of Being Pure At Heart), but more like a natural musical progression insists that the sound developed by ringleader Dylan Baldi and his crew must occur in today’s independent and alternative universe. The great thing about Attack On Memory is the fact that it is as roaring and impacting as its ’90s brethren. It’s ridiculously catchy and pounding garage rock that can be fully appreciated by a mainstream listener. It’s not so much about looking back as it is about bringing it back and keeping it here to stay.
At just over a half-hour, Attack On Memory really delivers on its tightly-knit promise. Dylan Baldi — originally a solo artist with the current moniker — displays the potential of a powerhouse garage punk now that he has a full and fortified membership with three other bandmates. He has set aside what were otherwise impressive lo-fi recordings and has churned out eight tracks that are enormously entertaining, with improved high fidelity. This doesn’t necessarily make it sound “clean,” but there’s a new “in-between” that sounds good and maintains the rigidity of traditional lo-fi garage punk recordings.
Throughout its eight tracks, the album keeps a wonderful fluidity even with the amount of track-by-track variety. The fantastic album opener, “No Future/No Past,” is this rather gentle track whose delicious Pixies-esque melody takes its time before exploding into a brash and terrifically horrifying finale. With the drums heavily in the forefront and the distorted rhythms and Baldi’s vocals in the mix, this transitions well into the epic, 9-minute track “Wasted Days,” which might already have a place on my list for best tracks of 2012. It contains a speed and ferocity both in the time-keeping drum work and Baldi’s vocals that should earn it a spot in the pantheon of the greatest garage punk tracks, only to slow down and go out of control by track’s end. By the end of “Wasted Days,” you’d be smart to listen to the rest of the album at volume 11.
“Fall In” then brings something short and sweet. Containing an intriguing punk construction and catchy vocal repetition, it’s a tenacious track that flows nicely into “Stay Useless,” which runs along the melodic lines of Dookie-era Green Day. “Separation” then turns Attack On Memory on its head with an electrifying instrumental track that pounds each eardrum. The rhythmic and pulsating grip of the fiery guitars and crashing drums keep the album’s overall tonality in check, but further proves that each track has something new to provide.
“No Sentiment” is another wonderfully constructed song that could have easily come out of early sessions for Nirvana’s In Utero. Here again does Baldi prove himself a strong performer, providing the track with give-it-all-you’ve-got vocals while composing a deep cut that’s both raw and likable in a standard pop structure. “Our Plans” features the same desperation as the previous track, albeit with a more upbeat tone.
As the final track, “Cut You,” fades out on Baldi’s lines “I miss you ’cause I like damage / I need something I can hurt,” there’s this lingering realization that Attack On Memory is the artist’s heart-aching appreciation for the sounds that impressed him so much. That we don’t get these kinds of eye-openers in the area of alternative music these days is telling to Baldi, which is why the “attack” is a fierce one.
Photos by Ryan Manning
Now that Baldi has found the right outlet and members to give his sound a complete and fulfilling nature, Attack On Memory becomes a resonating experience. Its hearkening simplicity and tenacity makes it such an entertaining album with great sound quality, standout garage punk tracks, and a sense of accomplishment that, rest assured, will be remembered by the end of the year.
Attack On Memory is now available from Carpark Records digitally through iTunes and physically on CD and vinyl. Be sure to also check out Cloud Nothings on their upcoming U.S. tour; dates are listed down below.
Cloud Nothings Tour Dates
02/16 – Chattanooga, TN – JJ’s Bohemia
02/17 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
02/18 – Birmingham, AL – Bottletree
02/20 – Orlando, FL – Backbooth
02/21 – Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder
02/23 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
02/24 – San Antonio, TX – Ten Eleven
02/25 – Austin, TX – Red 7
02/26 – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace
02/27 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
02/28 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom
02/29 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
03/01 – Costa Mesa, CA – Detroit Bar
03/02 – Los Angeles, CA – Echo
03/03 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
03/05 – Portland, OR – Holocene
03/06 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
03/07 – Vancouver, CA – The Media Club
03/08 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
03/09 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
03/10 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
03/12 – Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
03/17 – McAllen, TX – Simon Sez
03/20 – Nashville, TN – The End
03/21 – Louisville, KY – Zanzabar
03/22 – Cincinnati, OH – MOTR Pub
03/24 – Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo
03/25 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
03/26 – Providence, RI – Fete Lounge
03/30 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
03/31 – Washington, DC – Red Palace
04/01 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
04/02 – Buffalo, NY – Ninth Ward @ Babeville
04/03 – Pittsburgh, PA – Brillobox
04/04 – Detroit, MI – Magic Stick Lounge
04/05 – Cleveland Heights, OH – Grog Shop
04/06 – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern
04/07 – Columbus, OH – Outland Live