Attack on Memory

Band: Cloud Nothings
Album: Attack on Memory
Best song: “Fall In” is impeccable.
Worst song: “No Sentiment” isn’t the best.

There are days when I really miss the second wave of emo. In many ways, I grew up on that stuff, as my formative years were bounced between my beloved post-rock and the Urbana-soaked second wave of Braid, Seam, Sarge and outliers like Sunny Day Real Estate, Jonah’s onelinedrawing and the like. I would listen to anything on Jade Tree, Parasol and other such labels. It was all good, though little of it was great. It was akin to the old notion of sex and pizza, though my friend Drew had a better analogy: hamburgers. A crappy hamburger is still good and the distance between the best hamburger in the world and the worst is not that great.

It was all sorta messed up by the Dashboard Confessionals and — sadly, yes — bands like Death Cab for Cutie, but more the entire scene was swallowed up by the progression of time. The sweater/thick-rimmed glasses — aka Weezer’s entire fashion thing — aethstetic was a huge part of my life at the time, though I never wore that stuff (I do now). The world moves in ways that forgets minor trends. Remember when garage rock was super hot? Remember ska? Remember horrorcore?

Braid broke up, Jeremy Enigk found religion, Elizabeth Elmore went to law school and the Promise Ring guys found better wants to spend their time. The entire scene shifted, as is the way of the world. But, the sound never really stuck around and I can’t say I understand that. Second-wave emo was an extension of many great things: the genre’s first wave, grunge’s poppier sides, the vocal soul of Morrissey and Robert Smith, etc. It was an interesting combination and something of beauty.

(Obviously, this is mostly just rose-colored nostalgia on my part. I’m sure there are people 5-10 years my senior who miss the Seattle scene of the early 1990s, with Mudhoney, Tad and such fuzzing it up. This is my time period, in a lot of ways, so I miss the youthful optimism, the discovery and the fun of being 20, as I blow past my 31st birthday.)

The Cloud Nothings take some of this musical style and cater it toward a more modern musical tendency. Echoing a non-sucky Titus Andronicus, frontman Dylan Baldi combines the power pop of his previous records with a darker guitar sound and shifting rhytmns. Indeed, the record sounds like Big Star meets Fugazi.

“Stay Useless” has an anthemic hook, while “No Future/No Past” could be a Nation of Ulysses song from a different galaxy. Nearly nine minutes of “Wasted Days” is a revelation, with a build up crescendo that’s wonderful. “Our Plans” is harmonized with Baldi’s mediocre voice (my main concern with the record) and his band. “Fall In” has an infectious hook and a drum sound that rivals William Goldsmith’s on Diary.

It’s only February, but Attack on Memory might be in contention by the end of the year’s best record.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

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