Monday, February 20, 2012

Attack on Memory generates frigid forecast for Cloud Nothings

I hope you weren't expecting to hear bright and cheery punk when you picked up the new Cloud Nothings album. You won't find it here.

Cloud Nothings are an indie/punk band from Cleveland who are fed up with the futility of life, and specialize in being extremely cold and dissonant. Their latest record, Attack on Memory, signifies a major shift in sound and attitude from their previous works.

The first two albums were generally lo-fi 90s pop punk influenced rock with a focus on delivering an upbeat sound. The first thing you will likely notice is that Attack on Memory is much more biting and acerbic in terms of tone and lyrical content. Dylan Baldi's lyrics reflect undying pessimism toward the future.

Though it isn't just in the lyrics; the music itself exudes a literal chill.

This album is like opening up your door on the first day of winter and being hit with the sudden realization that everything is bleak, barren and desolate. The opener, "No Future, No Past," isn't a very complex tune at all. Baldi's dreary, droning voice rises forth over clanging chords in what surely must be the soundtrack to a warped funeral procession. On "Wasted Days," Baldi perhaps best articulates his gloomy outlook:

"And I know I'm losing all my time
Doesn't seem like it was ever mine.
Feeling sick but I don't know why
Getting tired of living 'til I die"

It's the perfect anthem for anyone who has ever found themselves drifting aimlessly through life with no plan or future prospects. Midway through there's an extended instrumental section which builds up to a climatic crescendo. The further along it goes, the more intense it gets until eventually it degenerates into little more than noise. But it's a brilliant section for building a sense of tension. This sets the stage for Baldi's return, who emits his agonized shrieks of: "I THOUGHT I WOULD BE MORE THAN THIS!"
It's a chilling moment. It's certainly the closest you'll ever want to get to the fallout of a life gone down the tubes.
If you're familiar with previous Cloud Nothings albums, you may be a bit taken aback by the sudden shift in tone that Attack on Memory presents. There are some tunes that are a little more endearing. "Fall In" has a nice bouncy pop punk feel, and "Stay Useless has a lead in riff that sounds like something pulled from a commercial for the Winter X Games.

"Separation" takes it a step further by proving the band doesn't even need lyrics to get their point across. It feels tailor made to get a crowd rocking and grooving. Incidentially, "Separation" ends a four song stretch that I feel like is the highlight of the album. "No Sentiment" and "Our Plan" are servicable cuts, but are a bit simplistic in terms of lyrics and strucutre and don't fully feel fleshed out. The closer, "Cut You," is fine musically, but the abusive boy/girl relationship theme feels somewhat cookie cutter.

"Attack on Memory" is a huge leap forward for the band in terms of songwriting, sound quality, and for establishing an identity for the band. I still think they have some room to grow as songwriters -- sometimes the lyrics are a bit too simple on a few of the songs. But the Cloud Nothings have established a unique atmosphere that is channeling life into the admittedly stagnant punk genre. You owe it to yourself to check them out.

Score: 84/100

No comments: