If there's one thing native Clevelander Dylan Baldi can never be accused of him resting on laurels. For someone who initially started making music as an excuse to drop out of University, the subsequent wave of critical acclaim coupled with a prolific spate of writing and recording has seen his Cloud Nothings alter ego become bonafide contenders in swapping underground cult status for potential mainstream success.
A remarkable story in itself, his first album 'Turning On' only surfacing at the tail end of 2010 followed by its self-titled successor some three months later, his exuberant take on punk pop via the much-maligned C86 scene proving nothing short of revitalising. Now a fully realised four-piece band; indeed last year's inaugural visit to the UK highlighted both a playful and experimental nature to Baldi and Cloud Nothings while occasionally resulting in shambolic mayhem at regular intervals. Nevertheless, eschewing an engaging charm and altogether humane persona, those shows served up a quandary, not least in terms of trying to guess where his next venture was likely to take him.
For starters, 'Attack On Memory' is the first record to feature Cloud Nothings: the band rather than just as a vehicle for Dylan Baldi's solo project. Whereas its creator played every single instrument on its predecessor, all tasks bar the songwriting are shared evenly, and ultimately 'Attack On Memory' feels like an incisive collaboration brimming with ideas. Secondly, the decision to approach legendary musician-cum-producer Steve Albini to add his two pennies worth of noise infused genius was nothing short of a masterstroke.
Under Albini's influence, 'Attack On Memory' was recorded live in the studio; the majority in one single take. Comprising eight songs in total, the last of which ('Cut You') was actually written and recorded during the album sessions, 'Attack On Memory' represents a giant leap forward from Cloud Nothings humble beginnings, not to mention being barely recognisable from anything Dylan Baldi has put his name to beforehand.
The title of the record itself offers a backhanded swipe towards many of Baldi's synth-heavy, 1980s referencing contemporaries, and on the opening couplet of 'No Future/No Past' and 'Wasted Days' Cloud Nothings leave little to the imagination in terms of comparison with their chillwavin', day-glo clothed brethren. While the former's slow build-up via a chugging riff not exactly a million miles away from the earthy veneer of Shellac or structurally 'In Utero' era Nirvana, it's on the latter that a real evolution of sorts takes place before ones very eyes. Clocking in at just over eight minutes long in total, 'Wasted Days' is a gargantuan attempt at self-effacing sludge rock that will confound and delight fans of Cloud Nothings previous records in equal measures.
Delve deeper and 'Attack On Memory' becomes even more intriguing. The blood and guts thrash of 'Separation' starts to unravel in all its instrumental glory, not a sigh or murmur from Baldi's or any of his cohorts' mouths. 'No Sentiment' meanwhile is possibly the most visceral protest song about getting old to sting these ears since the first chords of The Who's 'My Generation' reverberated incessantly through them as a child. "We don't care what we lose!" spits Baldi over a furious collision of brutal riffs that come with the word "HEAVY" emblazoned on them in bold capital letters.
There are a couple of moments here that reference Baldi and Cloud Nothings of yore. 'Fall In' and lead single 'Stay Useless' both hark back to a time where The Soup Dragons and 14 Iced Bears represented the poppier side of DIY punk rather than Green Day or Blink 182, while the penultimate jangle of 'Our Plans' should keep the floppy fringe and chequered shirt brigade contented. Overall though, 'Attack On Memory' heralds a marked departure for Dylan Baldi and Cloud Nothings from what's gone before, and as bold statements of progressive intent go, the future possibilities are endless.
Welcome to the big league.