At 20 years old, Cloud Nothings mainman Dylan Baldi is a good example of someone being annoyingly good at an age when most people are really shit. In interviews he admonishes the current trend towards what he calls “hazy, electronic-y nostalgic music that is making up the ‘indie’ scene”.
On record, he steals only from the best, sounding like The Replacements being elegantly savaged by The Jesus Lizard. And while a chorus like ‘Wasted Days’’ (“I thought!/I would!/Be more!/Than this!”) suggests your typical grungeadelic nonsense, all subtlety and optimism disappearing up the bong of boringness, you have to suspect he’s getting at something a little less, well, nothingy.
See, unlike all those hazy, taut-lipped troubadours and day-glo dickheads with a manifesto for the future of mediocrity, Cloud Nothings appear to be worthwhile because they know what’s up with music, and they actually, you know, do something about it. This is borne out by ‘Attack On Memory’, the Cleveland trio’s second LP. Recorded by trash-rock lothario and ‘In Utero’ producer Steve Albini, it exhibits a precise mastery in crafting silkily threaded, post-hardcore rock songs that charm the birds from the trees before tearing the trees from their roots.
Word is, Albini spent most of recording playing Facebook Scrabble, but his influence could hardly be writ larger. Take the chain-gang drudge of ‘No Future/No Past’, Baldi’s jagged groans slicing at a barren melodic carcass, while eviscerated guitars pick and spit on its bones. Gone are the childish larks of their debut – an altogether clumsier business – and, instead, Baldi and co give precedence to a dystopian dread fit for economic blackout: clanking, zippy riffs, barrelling minor-key pianos and drawn-out, churning progressions employed like sturdy joists.
Interspersed with seminal flashes of blissy power-indie – the spiralling ‘Fall In’, the raspy ‘Our Plans’, the hermetic ‘Stay Useless’ – ‘Attack On Memory’ peaks with the nine-minute thunderpop masterpiece ‘Wasted Days’, a song so righteously, unapologetically needy it renders most luminaries of the now-defective ‘emo’ banner a shower of irredeemable ninnies.
There’s a scene at the end of Gus Van Sant’s Last Days where protagonist Blake, a prickly bastard with rubbish hair and a startling likeness to Kurt Cobain, lies lifeless on the greenhouse floor. Through the windowpane, we watch his translucent frame clambering from the naffed-out corpse and departing the physical plane. The movie’s tagline? Rock And Roll Will Never Die. So, basically, you can have your nostalgia pie and eat it. Truth is, for all the reformed cheese doing the rounds, Cloud Nothings are the tastiest treat in town.