Amazingly raw, no one can argue how much influence Steve Albini had on the album in Chicago (although one interview says he mostly played Scrabble on Facebook). But even without Albini, there would have been plenty of change. Much like fans have noted after seeing live performances, the group has tightened their sound. The intensity catches attention, but it's the precision that keeps it.
Attack On Memory floats Cloud Nothings.
Still, Albini wasn't the biggest driver on the album. Most of the directional shift was planned by Baldi and company after playing live. He really wanted to add more material to enhance the variability of every set. He also wanted more songs that opened up improvisation.
The album kicks off with No Future/No Past, a broodingly dark and meandering piece that weighs in and covers you slowly. It's thick, rich, and quite unlike anything that has come before it. At least until it rides the piano line into a dark and messy pummel. The largely undiscovered video was produced by Urban Outfitters.
All of this is the perfect lead-in for something more uptempo. Wasted Days shreds away for nine minutes and is destined to become to long play classic. The song builds, shifts, and then destroys itself before recovering completely. It will undoubtedly be one of the most heralded live performance songs of the year.
Fall In retains the album's progressive and sometimes punk stylings, but also serves as a bridge into a few songs that sound much more like the Cloud Nothings of last year. The same can be said for Cut You and Stay Useful, with the latter being the favorite track among long-time fans.
While they are cut from the sound that put the band on the map, each song demonstrates how much the band has grown. It's especially true of the vocals. Last year, part of the band's success was Baldi becoming comfortable with his own awkwardness. This year, he sounds great.
The foursome has matured from accidental to permanent.
TJ Duke has also matured on bass. It's almost impossible to conceive that he joined the band when Baldi had to scramble to get a band together to play an actual gig. Duke said sure, but reminded Baldi that he had never played bass in a band before.
Joe Boyer (guitar) and Jayson Gerycz (drums) had polished up their talent too, which is what really made the case for more improvisations on the road. They want to bust loose and play to their strengths. Together, they are good enough to get away with quite a bit. Even this restrained and whispered production of the closing song Cut You works surprisingly well despite the loss of intensity without the benefit of percussion and their usual full production fire.
On the bottom half of the album, some people are saying nothing stands out as much as the openers. That isn't exactly true. Seperation has everything going for it as an instrumental noise jam. No Sentiment is smashingly captivating even if it needs the context of the album to work. And No Plans, while lyrically not as strong as its companions, drones along with vocals before finding a more fiery pace.
Cloud Nothings Attack On Memory Is Unforgettable At 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Across three albums, Cloud Nothings has made a surprisingly smooth and exciting transition from lo fi to pop punk to post punk and indie rock. And all of it is really to the credit of Baldi and the entire band, who have done an excellent job at adding in new sound while remaining true to their roots.
Attack On Memory by Cloud Nothings is on iTunes. You can also find the CD and vinyl edition at Barnes & Noble or pick up Attack On Memory from Amazon, which currently includes a free download of Stay Useless. Keep up with the band on Facebook.