All it really took was one quote about Cloud Nothings’ new album, Attack on Memory, that made me realize I’d probably dig it. Explaining the album’s title, Dylan Baldi (who helms the group) told one publication that it "is basically referencing the current trend toward hazy, electronic-y nostalgic music that is making up the 'indie' scene. I don't really like that kind of music. This album is meant to place us more firmly outside of that category." The quote didn’t speak to me because I hate chillwave music (I listen to, and enjoy, plenty of hazy electronic-y music) but because I’d long thought Baldi just needed to strip away one layer of Cloud Nothings’ lo-fi, and dare I say, ‘nostalgic’ production values before he could record a truly great album, and with Attack on Memory, he certainly has.
I hadn’t considered myself a fan of the band prior to Attack on Memory, but I was familiar with the back story. 18 year-old wunderkind has an array of MySpace accounts where he uploads lo-fi pop music, and eventually, increasingly larger record labels take notice of the one labeled Cloud Nothings. Some of Baldi’s songs had wandered into my consciousness, and from what I’d heard, it sounded like infectious, yet innocuous bedroom punk. “Understand at All” and “Should Have” from last year’s self-titled release got lodged in my brain, but they hardly seemed like the kind of meat-and-potatoes rock songs you could live off of. As more details about Attack on Memory came to light (Steve Albini production, a 9 minute song on a record that is barely half an hour long, screaming) I became worried that this would be a classic case of my expectations exceeding the final product, but judging from my repeated plays of the album, it’s somehow surpassed them.
Last night at the Crocodile I wasn’t too concerned with how the new songs would translate to a live setting; It’s no-bullshit-gives-you-a-bloody-nose-guitar-rock, what better way to experience it than live? Upon taking the stage, Baldi and company quickly played two songs from the new record that sound most like his earlier work, almost as if to get them out of the way. “Stay Useless” and “Fall In,” with their catchy melodies, nonetheless have an edge to them that’s heard across the album; a vague yet beleaguered attitude toward both the past and the future, and feeling that even as Baldi is miserable in the present, he’s also reveling in it. There aren’t any marked condemnations of electronic music, despite the aforementioned quote about the album’s title (for that, you should listen to Sleater-Kinney’s fuck-off to Interpol, “Entertain”), but by the song “Cut You,” the catalyst for this appears to be a former significant other who’s since moved on, with its lyrics “Is he gonna work out/Can he be as mean as me?” and “I miss you ‘cause I like damage/I need something I can hurt.”
The band eventually played through the entire album. Baldi’s amp broke early on in the set, and dealing with a replacement amp seemed to frustrate him the entire night as he frequently shrugged at his band members upon various songs’ conclusions. The highlight was hearing the 9 minute long song, "Wasted Days," performed live. In my current state, in a post-collegiate year, having gone from working 3 jobs to now doing 2 part-time ones, and where my definition of a productive day-off is not eating any ice cream and only watching 3 episodes of Twin Peaks, I found particular catharsis in yelling "I thought/I would/Be more/Than this" along with Baldi. In recent press Baldi says the band is already at work on new songs that are weirder, stranger, and louder. Count me in for the next time Cloud Nothings roll into town.