It’s sad when the lofty statements around an album distort how it’s perceived. Cloud Nothings’ main man Dylan Baldi has been keen to big up Attack On Memory as a declaration of opposition to the current norm of passive, lackadaisical reverb drenched indie, the title targeted squarely at its rampant nostalgia. But upon hearing it, it’s not exactly the forward-thinking blast of radicalism you’d anticipate. Rather, the album really just offers up a slightly uglier, tougher past, one torn straight from the more noise-friendly independent rock of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. We’re talking the trade of slackers, disillusioned hardcore kids and those sensitive, angry souls soon to be tarred with the ‘emo’ tag. It’s even got everybody’s favourite noise-rock troll turned cooking blogger Steve Albini at the producer’s desk for that little extra bit of authenticity.
The only surprise is how well it actually works. It’s a mile away from the gentle, sweetly melodic fuzz of their debut. The skeletal, piano-led opener ‘No Future No Past’ soon boils over into Baldi cathartically screaming over blunt force drumming and tinny, wailing guitar leads. On ‘Wasted Days’, they happily spend four minutes noisily jamming over a driving two note bassline. Where this could have been monotonous, it is instead enthralling, the project’s clearly benefitting from its evolution from a bedroom hobby to a full group with stellar chemistry.
‘Stay Useless’, the album’s rambunctiousness anthemic centrepiece, recalls the grimy, youthful power-pop of The Replacements not only in its rollicking pace, but as much in its angst-ridden lyrics. When he yells lines like “I thought I would be more than this!” or “Give me time to stay useless” on the record, there’s a passion in his voice that earnestly captures that post-adolescent frustration that will either endear itself to listeners, or send them running. But that’s what makes the record so great; whether the sound is abrasive or excitable, there’s no arguing they don’t mean every word and note of it.