It’s difficult to compare Cloud Nothings that released the self titled 2011 record to Cloud Nothings that released Attack On Memory just a year later. Their previous upbeat sugar coated pop-punk sound has been wiped from the slate almost completely and they have started anew as a band who could possibly revitalize the early 90’s emo sounds of a Sunny Day Real Estate or Christie Front Drive. Emo punk and indie rock fans have been waiting for something like Attack On Memory for quite a while. There is a adolescent feeling of reckless abandon that stirs emotion for the full 33 minutes and is a pretty easy sell when it comes packaged within the raspy screams of 20 year old Dylan Baldi.
The record opens with “No Future/No Past”. It prepares you for the journey well with grungy undertones and daunting emotions, to eventually launch into a solid promise that this record is pure, no frills rock. The sense of urgency in their sound builds within “Wasted Days”. A free and unedited sounding eight rare minutes on an album with otherwise relatively short tracks. The driving drums push this track forward effortlessly while holding together awesomely unbridled rock riffing. It veers in different directions without really seeming to care about the consequences, making the track sort of the epic glue between the nostalgic and the rebirth.
“Fall In” and “Stay Useless” back to back are more polished, stylized tracks and are the only two tracks that really show a very subtle glimpse of who Cloud Nothings were a year ago. There is a youthful and infectious punk sound to both that nicely breaks up the darker emoting from the opening tracks. Pulling back out of the lightness with “Separation”, a simple yet ever changing three minute instrumental jam that brings you back around to the heavy rawness that opened the record with “No Sentiment”. Finally, the lofty decent begins with more melodic vocals and slower rhythms with “Our Plans”. The album closes with “Cut You”, a bitter song of heartbreak who’s lyrics, “I miss you ‘cause I like damage”, were ideally scribbled on worn composition paper peppered with cigarette ash and coffee stains. It ends the album on a perfectly bitter, yet hopeful note.
There is so much being reborn lately. So many styles and sounds are being done over, some well and some not so well. Baldi and his band could have easily crossed the line and fussed the music into a novelty, but they left it as it as is. Each song hits the mark without seeming thought out, as if it was recorded in one ambitious and urgent take. It’s difficult for someone like me to not anticipate greatness when some of my favorite classic musical staples are being resurrected and be ultimately disappointed when modernized versions just don’t stand up, but Attack On Memory did an incredible job. So incredible that I can even overlook the fact that corporate hipster icon, Urban Outfitters, co-produced their video for “No Future/No Past’. All of the elements of great emo and indie rock are there, every single raw scream, dirty riff, fuzzy vocal and snaring drum beat is there. The emotion, the desperation and the brutal honesty are all there. All of the things that once became worn out and old are new again, and this time it’s pretty damn great.