Dylan Baldi began Cloud Nothings as a low-fi side project. The music was pop-punk oriented; fast songs along with cheap recordings giving it the fabulous fuzzy garage sound that The Thermals made popular and bands like Wavves live in. Cloud Nothings produced those low-fi recordings that had raw energy sparked from a playfulness of not really giving a shit. The song “Hey Cool Kids” made Cloud Nothings an Internet sensation with its humorous video and Indie-rock jamboree of catchiness.
But all of that is in the past. Cloud Nothings’ new album is a drastic reinvention. Attack On Memory is just that, an attack on what you remember about the band.
They’ve departed from the indirect low-fi sound by elevating themselves with professional production and a specific style. This specific style is angry. Attack On Memory is an album filled with disappointment, rage, and straight up disruption. This is not a pop-punk album. This is a hard rock album.
One must wonder how much of this has to do with the producer being Steve Albini. Albini became known for recording 90s legends Nirvana, Pixies, Jesus Lizard and Guided By Voices, but he also is known for that same familiar sound; distorted guitars, grunge vocals, and smashing drums. Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi is trying distance himself from the thoughts of Albini’s influence as he told Pitchfork in a recent interview, “We recorded in the room (Albini’s) worked in for 20 years, so every album done there has the same sort of ambiance and vibe.” Baldi also said, “He played Scrabble on Facebook the entire time…I don’t even know if he remembers what our album sounds like.” Baldi wants to make it clear; the aggression you’re hearing is from Cloud Nothings, not from Steve Albini.
Continuing to compare the old Cloud Nothings and the new Cloud Nothings, there is a strong difference in Baldi’s voice. When I saw Cloud Nothings live in 2010 his voice was borderline whiney, like there was a sour lemon in his mouth. But now he is singing with a Cobain-esque growl. He has that itch of unpleasant disruption in his stomach, which isn’t something a producer can just “turn on”. It is something that comes from the core of a musician.
Although Cloud Nothings used to be known as Dylan Baldi’s pet project, Attack On Memory is a full band at work. The pleasant pop sassiness of a singer/songwriter is nonexistent and is replaced with a hardcore jam of a cohesive group. The opening track “No Future/No Past” is a methodical build up, slow and sludgy but an immediate way to set the mood for the album. The second track “Wasted Days” is lead with fast guitars but in the middle the song breaks loose with spaced out chain saws spewing invested insanity, for eight minutes. It is uncontrollable hard rock. It is a full band on the verge. Songs like “No Sentiment” and “Stay Useless” display this same angst in a typical hard rock fashion.
Attack On Memory is short running at only eight songs. It is a great listen, especially if you’re stuck in a pitiful mood. These guys nail the murky feeling of grey nothingness. The question is, are their fans going to be willing to accept this new sound? Regardless, the album is solid enough to create new fans if they’re not willing to side with it.