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"ignites forgotten loves and sets fires afresh"
on 16 February 2012
There are curveballs and there are U-turns. Dylan Baldi hasn't quite pulled a 180 with Attack On Memory, but in the 12 brief months since his last LP a lot has changed. For a start, Cloud Nothings is now a band - a historically sympathetic hardcore one at that - and Baldi's former breakneck pop-punk is now just a dot on the horizon.
Then there's the almost inevitable no-frills Steve Albini production, which allows rasping cuts like "Our Plans" to seem like they've been with us forever. For, its duelling guitar and prominent snare are rife with retro quiet-loud structures, yet there's also evidence that Baldi hasn't dispensed entirely with his past, here unable to resist climaxing with chorus piled on seething chorus.
The plentiful Cloud Nothings hooks of before undoubtedly remain; they're now just buried under shifting rhythms and crunching guitar walls, such as on the familiar power-punk jangle "Fall In" in which Baldi again reverts to type with heavy vocal repeats. The nostalgic romp "Stay Useless" does the same job much better. Mosh-pit friendly, its raw edges effortlessly capture a sense of catchy hopelessness that is firmly anchored to credibility by perfectly judged off-mic screams.
That same, grittier take on pop-punk is taken to a logical conclusion on the ska(te)-punk indebted "Wasted Days". Though its drums roll like thunder amid those ubiquitous hooks, there seems to be a radio mix ripe for being ripped from the track's opening 3 minutes. After that it then contorts on however with a frayed bass-line and tense atmos-punk for a further 6 minutes until a squalling, everything-in-the-red blowout is interrupted by Baldi's jaw-dropping yell: "I thought ... I would ... be more ... than this."
This unconcealed aspiration to expand and explore outside ready pigeon-holing unquestionably leads Baldi to some imperious highs on Attack On Memory and none more so than the striking opener "No Future/No Past" - its lingering intensity, courtesy of Baldi's convincing proto-emo growl and off-mic emoting, provides a certain slow-burning nihilism that erupts with pained, Slint-like surges into Albini's hands-off and spacious production.
In terms of influence, "No Sentiment" keeps it cult, running riot with disaffected Dischord riffs reminiscent of the rightfully respected Rites Of Spring and/or Embrace canons. Baldi knows all too well from whence these disaffected theatrics came and again doesn't hide the fact, affecting a part-echoed buzz-saw drawl to compliment, diluting the whole sound only minutely with his own strains of emergent-era grunge.
There's such burning commitment and generally just too much awesomeness afoot here to write off Attack On Memory as an tawdry exercise in grave robbing. It's not only respectful, but also essential in its right. And what it lacks in track number, Attack On Memory more than compensates for with material aplenty that ignites forgotten loves and sets fires afresh in the hearts and minds of a new fervent youth.
Advised downloads: "No Future/No Past" and "Stay Useless".