Cloud Nothings haven’t been around for very long at all. Vocalist and guitarist Dylan Baldi only started the band in 2009 to occupy himself between university lectures, which you could listening hear in their debut Turning On and their self titled follow-up album. Both were full of energetic, youthful indie-rock-verging-on-indie-pop tracks. With their newest release, Attack on Memory, it sounds like Baldi has grown up, but not by much. “Teenage angst” isn’t always used as compliment, most of the time people use it like an insult, but this album is fuelled by angst, and it’s fantastic.
Attack on Memory fits well as the album title. It feels like a statement of intent. ‘Fall In’ is the closest sounding song to anything they have written previously, and even that track takes it further than before. Gone are the softly sung songs and tambourines but keeping all the hooks and turning up the fuzz. Everything on this album tears apart what Cloud Nothings used to be and replaces it with furious, hectic jams. At times, some tracks get relatively dense for a four piece, with layers of crunchy guitars mounting up to a thick but calculated tangle.
Following an album where only a few songs dared to be barely longer than three minutes, ‘Wasted Days’ completely switches up the formula and goes on for nine minutes. While the plodding solo break drags on a bit long, damn near half the track, it builds up to the most exciting part of the album. Baldi digs deep into his belly and screams “I thought I would be more than this,” over the chaotic everything of his band. It’s terrifying, raw and sounds surprisingly private.
This self reflection continues throughout Attack on Memory, like in ‘Stay Useless’. A little slower and simpler than the other songs on the album, with Baldi sloppily snarling “I need time to stop moving, I need time to stay useless,” for the chorus. It’s understandable for Baldi to feel like this. In just three years Cloud Nothings have gone from a dorm room distraction to a world touring act that works in the studio with veteran engineer Steve Albini, famous for working with Nirvana and Jawbreaker. ‘Stay Useless’ could easily be the theme song to every kid in university getting freaked out by the world moving too fast around them, which might make me the exact demographic.
The only stumble on this album comes from the instrumental ‘Separation’. It feels too slow and cumbersome compared to the rest of the album, which is odd, considering how fast it actually is. Something in Baldi’s wail brings out a sense of urgency in Cloud Nothings’ music, and this song is worse off without it. It brings the pace of Attack on Memory down, and sometimes that could be a good thing for other albums, I didn’t want it to stop hurtling along.
Cloud Nothings are at their best when going 100mph, screaming as they go, and for the most part Attack on Memory is like an autobahn for them. It’s brash and irritated and completely absorbing. While there are a couple bumps along the way, that break in the middle of ‘Wasted Days’ is seriously kind of ridiculous, almost everything about it is brimming with frenzied excitement and the best kind of teenage angst around.
Rejected Obvious Review Title: Something out of Cloud Nothings.