It’s such an awful game that I want to play with you

If you want to classify Cloud Nothings’s previous outings as garage rock, then for Attack on Memory it seems that main Cloud Dylan Baldi locked himself in the garage for a year with nothing other than bourbon and unfiltered cigarettes. The band’s previous two albums, Turning On and Cloud Nothings were certainly snotty, but there was always something sunny and innocent behind Baldi’s bratty kiss-offs. Sure he might be sneering, “You’re so ugly / I don’t really understand / Why you’re famous” on tracks like “Not Important,” but it always veered back to innocence. After all, even “Not Important,” the heaviest pre-Attack on Memory Cloud Nothings track, ends with a clear vocal harmony and jabs about a purely sexual relationship.

That Cloud Nothings no longer exists. Gone is the colorful pop sensibility evident even by the cover of Cloud Nothings. The world of Attack on Memory has no color, just variations on an absence of it. The guttural howl of “Not Important” is now the norm rather than the exception and rather than brashly insulting past lovers,  Baldi now turns the gaze inwards. He laments, “I thought I would be more than this” and later admits that he “need[s] to know” if his romantic replacement can “hurt you like I do” before coyly asking, “Is it gonna work out?”  If you want to be Shakespearean about it, Attack on Memory is the King Lear to Cloud Nothing’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The opening track “No Future / No Past” establishes this mood of transcendent gloom. There is no future, there is no past, just some sort of troubling present where time is stagnant and all is doomed to “stay useless.”

While the album is fraught with a sense of loss (maybe Baldi, a Cleveland native, is still sore about the Decision), it never wallows in its solitude. Rather, and I’m sure in no small part due to the production of famed acerbic curmudgeon Steve Albini, there is only lashing back. With these dark tones and an increased focus on elaborate, layered instrumentation Cloud Nothings sound like a band that has finally come into its own, and its own is damn near sublime.

Attack on Memory is out tomorrow via Carpark records. Check out the video for album opener “No Future / No Past” below and be sure to check out more tracks from what is already one of the best albums of 2012.

Cloud Nothings – “No Future / No Past” Official Video P.S. Shahan rocks.

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