The first two volumes of Clevelander Dylan Baldi’s work as Cloud Nothings showcase a musician with a precocious knack for hooks, ping-ponged hooks laid onto a backdrop of Baldi’s sunny jangle with songs like Turning On’s “Hey Cool Kid” and Cloud Nothings’ “Should Have.” So, when word got out that Steve Albini was on board for Cloud Nothing’s third LP, Attack On Memory, a prognosticator’s imagination could only run wild with the possible implications of the marriage; the death of Cloud Nothings signature lo-fi vibe, the construction of a thundering low end (to this point, Cloud Nothings was Baldi’s bedroom project and not a full band), rougher textures as the rule and Baldi’s hooks pushed forward in the mix, vocals barbed and polished for maximum stickiness.
So, in a sense, Attack On Memory opener “No Future/No Past” is both an extremely logical leadoff choice and a complete surprise. While Albini’s influence on the sessions might be more spiritual than real, at least with regards to the songwriting – “He played Scrabble on Facebook almost the entire time … He would alternate between that and writing on his food blog. I don’t even know if he remembers what our album sounds like,” he told Pitchfork in a recent interview — you can hear the signature Albini recording tactics immediately, as “No Future/No Past” rides a seething piano line into a messy, close-mic’d howl amidst a deliberate, dark pummel from the rhythm section. The next track, “Wasted Days,” is an uptempo ripper that grinds into noisy cacophony and an early contender for best song of the year. Tracks like “Fall In,” “Cut You” or “Stay Useless” could have easily fit onto Turning On or Cloud Nothings unless they’d stick out too noticeably as superior, sharper cuts. It’s a stunning accomplishment of thoughtful sound evolution. Baldi reined in his own gift for hooks, pushing them forward while rebuilding the walls around him to form a greater, weightier product.
In a recent Under The Influence feature, Baldi handpicked tracks that informed the songwriting decisions of Attack On Memory, namechecking revered acts like the Wipers (“The Wipers are undoubtedly the biggest influence on Attack On Memory, Baldi said) and Killdozer while pointing out the solos of Thin Lizzy and the guitar sounds of the Zounds. Attack On Memory, while admirably revivalist, reverential and fully realized in its eight tracks, too signifies the most exciting contra to chillwave (or other nostalgia temples like Thought Catalog) and the most exciting return to rock music that the indie scene has witnessed in a while — the album title itself and “No Sentiment” lines like “No nostalgia / And no sentiment / We’re over it now / And we were over it then,” striking a rigid stance against bands mining ‘90s Nickelodean references and naming their bands after Scrooge McDuck vehicles. It’s a memorable record in every way, where the older fans of the bands that Baldi uses as touchpoints will find solace in Attack On Memory and younger fans will begin to scour record store bins for Wipers records.
Other records out this week of note are Craig Finn’s stripped-back solo record Clear Heart Full Eyes, Pop. 1280’s dark, stomping The Horror, Dizzee Rascal’s sharp crew collab DirteeTV.com, First Aid Kit’s lush, pretty The Lion’s Roar and Gangrene’s abstract, experimental rap LP Vodka & Ayahuasca.
“No Future/No Past”
Attack On Memory is out today on Carpark.