Top positive review
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Worth its weight in accolades. Great 50/50 balance of post-hardcore guitar histrionics and dynamic pop hooks.
on February 6, 2012
I'll start this review by being honest and this might speak for a few of you: PitchforkMedia led me to this album by bestowing it their "best new music" tag and their description of the songs and the addition of Steve Albini's engineering caught my interest. So I won't make any front about being there from Dylan Baldi's humble beginnings as a lo-fi bedroom artist since this record is poised to be Cloud Nothing's breakthrough and I can already see some fans getting smug about the new audiences this album will draw from its seemingly unanimous critical appraisal.
I started listening with no bias or previous expectations, though I plan on exploring Baldi's back catalog very soon because of my impression of his abilities as a songwriter. Let me make something clear. Attack is frontloaded by two of its most memorable songs, which isn't to necessarily say the rest don't compare. "No Future/No Past" is a haunting opener, capturing my attention from the first measure of the piano chords, developing into a song driven by mantra-like vocal lines and building into the cathartic release of Baldi's screams. It's evident that Albini's mix benefits the sound of this band, giving the special clarity the chimey guitars need from the commanding emotive quality of his voice. It's with this song that my interest is completely piqued. Next is "Wasted Days", nine minutes played with all the conviction of a hardcore band and also containing the album's most angst-ridden lyrical refrains. The bulk of the song is rhythmic interplay between guitar and drums and doesn't get boring for a second which should speak loudly for a band like Cloud Nothings who for the remainder of the album reveal themselves as a band mainly pulling from the strengths of guitar and vocal hooks. I've seen people rag on "Fall In", and while it breaks up the harsher mood of the first fifteen minutes, it also has a nice pop melody framed by the stop-start motions of the band's rhythm section.
As someone into noise-rock and classic indie from the 80s and the 90s this has a lot of appeal for me. Baldi knows when to rein in the guitar squalor just enough to highlight how catchy these songs are without that same catchiness ever being irritating or to the detriment to how much it legitimately rocks. "No Sentiment" is a good display of all these angles of the Cloud Nothings sound, and "Cut You" ends the album on an uplifting note, its heavy drumming underpinning the blissful vocal melody and little guitar lines sprinkled throughout that recall moments from the Pixies "Doolittle". Not all of Attack on Memory is going in my life changing music file, but there's enough energy and memorable songs found on this album to keep me playing it. Recommended.