Review Summary: Like "Zen Arcade" for a generation raised on Green Day's later stuff. Almost.
Cloud Nothings’ “Attack on Memory” opens with a funeral dirge for youthful ambitions. “Give up, come to / No hope, we’re through,” vocalist Dylan Baldi croons over a crawling blanket of tin-can guitars and rolling bass notes on “No Future/No Past.” It’s an immediate challenge. This band is getting serious. Somewhere between 2010’s “Turning On”, a fun collection of lo-fi garage-y punk tunes, and here, Cloud Nothings decided they were going to be the next punk rock legends. If you can’t handle it, get out now.
“Attack on Memory” is an impressive work. It’s surprisingly broad in its scope of emotions, and even more startlingly consistent in its successes. The production has been cleaned up immeasurably, reflecting either an increase in funds or a heightened interest in creating songs that speak for themselves, uncouched by a sea of hiss. I’ll go with the latter. Each track has strong points, and most are strong throughout. “Separation” is a hyper-kinetic instrumental that tenses and explodes and plays a bit like a sonic landslide. Rip-roaring over a steam-powered beat and a bubbling flux of eerie loops, the 9 minute “Wasted Days” is without a doubt their best product yet, and topping it won’t be easy.
The band is pushing their sounds to new heights in a fully conscious way, but their evolution isn’t quite complete. Some of the later tracks can get a little repetitive. The ideas within are good, and generally fun, but not exactly captivating. Stretching them over three and a half or four minute increments does nothing but detract from their impact. “Stay Useless” is probably my favorite of the more pop numbers, probably because it doesn’t stick around long enough to get stale.
Hopelessness abounds on this record, but doesn’t oppress. It’s all very well balanced. The guitar interplay is expert and clearly well-explored. Rhythms start or fall back into place at surprising places, and are always interesting. When the raucous fades and everybody locks into a groove, it can be really captivating. Baldi’s voice can get a little screechy at times, but that’s more of a personal issue of mine. There’s passion behind his words, and it shows.
They’re almost there. If they get just that tiniest bit more focused, and if they haven’t spent all their fury here, great things are to come. Today’s teenager needs a record they can call their own. Don’t let ‘em down guys.