Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (Carpark)
January 15, 2012 by Jonny Chadwick
Cloud Nothings’ self titled debut was a joyful affair, full of youthful outpourings of emotion and some of the catchiest hooks of last year. That album was hardly bursting at the seams with originality, but the execution was so perfect that it was still one of the year’s finest.
Its follow-up Attack on Memory, is not a joyous affair, in fact its quite the opposite. While its predecessor was something of an easy listen, thirty minutes that flew over without noticing, the material on Dylan Baldi and co.’s latest is dense and sinister. It is what you would expect from an album produced by Steve Albini. Another thing you can usually expect when a band works with the Californian is the record being a career-defining one, and this one is no different. (For further evidence see Manic Street Preachers’ Journal for Plague Lovers, Nirvana’s In Utero and the Mclusky albums)
Attack on Memory is the record where Cloud Nothings really grow up, ceasing to be a delightful lo-fi pop group and becoming a serious band for adults. This is appropriate, as a lot of the lyrical content focuses on the theme of maturing and particularly leaving the past behind. On opener ‘No Future/ No Past’ Baldi repeatedly cries, with increasing desperation, ‘Give up/Come to/ Know how/We’re Through’. Sonically, ‘Stay Useless’ is the closest track on the new record to its predecessor, but is distinctly different in tone. The chorus ‘I need time to start moving/ I need time to stay useless’ shows an angst altogether less euphoric and more painful than that plaguing the lovelorn teenage narrator of Cloud Nothings’ first effort.
It is this state of purgatory between adolescence and adulthood that gives Attack on Memory such an interesting proposition. These lyrics are accompanied by instrumentation that is positively mind blowing. It is at its most astounding on ‘Wasted Days’, a nine minute epic in which the song fades into a din of confusion and noise before re-emerging with Baldi literally shouting the line ‘I thought I would be more than this’, a battle cry for the late teens/early twenties who are underwhelmed by how life has prepared them for adulthood.
Judging from this record, growing up is a pretty painful affair. If it produces art this good, I wouldn’t have it any other way.