52 Albums: Week one
Cloud Nothing’s new album, Attack on Memory, starts strong but loses focus towards the end.
Before I get to the full album review, some words on reviewing music, a process which will pose some challenges for me. For starters, I am not a musician and my ear is accordingly uneducated. While I know what I enjoy, I often lack the vocabulary to discuss it critically. Further, while some albums make a visceral impression the first time you listen to them, many of my favorite albums took months to fully sink in. Accordingly, I’ll be giving my initial impressions of the albums I listen to from a listener’s point of view. Whenever possible I’ll try to include samples and links to albums on Spotify. I’ll also likely revisit certain albums with followup posts if my opinion on a given album changes dramatically over time.
Back to the matter at hand. Attack on Memory is the second album from low-fi indie band Cloud Nothings. The album was produced by Steve Albini and his past work with bands such as Nirvana and Fugazi can be felt in Cloud Nothing’s shift to a heavier sound. (Cloud Nothings also spent time touring with Fucked Up last year so there is undoubtedly some influence from that quarter as well.)
Dylan Baldi is the brainchild behind Cloud Nothings and while he has a real talent for writing songs with great hooks, he says that on this album he wanted to move towards a more improvisational sound. I would say that he has succeeded but, for me at least, the album is worse for it. Maybe heavy lo-fi noodling is your thing, in which case you will love this album front to back but, for me, the further Baldi strays from his hooks, the less interesting the music becomes.
The second track on the album, “Wasted Days,” illustrates this point perfectly. Right from the opening chords, “Wasted Days” grabs your attention on a visceral level. If this song ended at the three minute mark it would be a tight, nearly perfect post-punk blast to the brain. The interlude that kicks in at the three minute mark is actually interesting for the first minute but this is followed by a further four minutes of dull noodling. By the time the song gets back on track in the final minute (and it does get back on track) it’s burned through a lot of good will and I’ve mostly lost interest.
So it is with the album as a whole. That interminable interlude aside, the first four tracks of this album are pretty darn good but the album loses focus in the second act. By the time the album gets back on track with “Our Plans,” I’ve mostly lost interest. My solution? I’ll be editing the album down to its essential core in iTunes.