Why You Love Nirvana AND Steve Albini: he made the Cloud Nothings record: Attack On Memory should be your year end list
If you want to know more about Steve Albini’s recording techniques you can talk to Rusty. He can tell you more about Albini than I can. After having just read Michael Azerrad’s “Come As You Are The Story Of Nirvana” I can A) recommend it to any fan of the band OR of music – because it is an excellent book about rock and roll. Music wasn’t really sure of itself then: “hair bands” were a thing and “flannel” was a pigeonholed sound and style (wait, I’m pretty sure it still is.) BUT the good part is people still listened to the radio and MTV STIL had music programming. Reading about the recent past (or any past) of music is always a good idea, just like listening to music from the past. B) It’s THE story of Nirvana. Once described to me as the definitive biography of the band (Azerrad has a lot of ‘definitive’ under his belt.) Hell, it was published just six months before Kurt left planet earth. There are other books on the band, but this one is full of interviews from all members of the band and everyone else in their life. There are detailed stories of early Nirvana tours around the US by van and in the UK (also by van.) If you like Nirvana (and if you don’t….get off my lawn) you will like this book. It’s full of stories about Kurt literally living under a bridge in Aberdeen, WA. And later tells the truth about his heroin use. It shows us how him and Courtney fell in love and how the American press and public terrorized their lives. After I read this book, my heart broke for Courtney Love. I just want to give her a big hug. This “…Story Of Nirvana” will also teach you the phases of Krist Novoselic’s vegetarianism and you’ll know all about how Dave Grohl dropped out of high school to go punk and be in a band. I’d say that it’s still working out well. C) You will also learn, as I did, that Steve Albini produced In Utero (which has my two favorite Nirvana tracks on it.) Albini also produced The Pixies’ debut indie smash, Surfer Rosa, The Breeders’s debut record, Pod, and many other indie heavy hitters like Low, The Jesus Lizard, Slint, The Wedding Present, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Albini makes damn good rock records. Just listen to Cloud Nothings and you’ll know what I mean.
At first the drone of Dylan Baldi’s voice turned me off. Probably for seven or eight months. I revisited Attack On Memory many times over. And it wasn’t’ until I found the instrumental track five, “Separation,” that I was addicted. Three minutes of sheer jumping, thrashing, love for rock and roll. This track will beat your brain. [Hear it below.] Literal guitar choruses running off and on the scales with simple bass and consistent drums. The best part about it is that you never get lost. Albini and the band managed to load you up on sound without making you crazy trying to follow along. The segments of this song are well defined even in it’s clutter. If you had to transcribe it to sheet music, it would be no problem.
“Separation” bleeds into the dissonant and emotionally packed “No Sentiment.” This track highlights Baldi’s voice more than any other track. OK, maybe “Wasted Days” and “No Future/No Past” does this too (ahh, they all do.) But “Wasted Days” is nine minutes long: not your average rock song. There are single note guitar solos, reverb murmurs and humming that sound like you’re inside a breaking machine that – at times – is sinking to the bottom of a pool. But that’s just it, the machine isn’t breaking or sinking. The track’s length allows us to find our place again. It’s gearing up inside itself through long drones to bring you right back around to the chorus, which Baldi screams at us endlessly: “I thought/I would/be more/than this.” The thing is, Baldi is more. He knew something all along. He knew it when he wrote, “no one knows our plans for us/we won’t last long.” And he knew it when he went to Albini. (Although Albini might’ve had nothing to do with the record after all? You decide, I guess.)
Baldi also knew to get right to the pop after eight minutes of strangeness. “Fall In” is full of Cloud Nothings’ guitar solos, but it’s also full of hooks. So it gets inside your head. You sing it all day. You sing it when you don’t even realize you’re singing it. What also makes this record great: this band knows the meaning of drum fills and progression. And they use it to their advantage throughout. You cannot have rock and roll without drums and Cloud Nothings keeps that interesting. Drummer Jayson Gerycz moves his skill around the set on “Our Plans” [below] in detail. He’s sensational across the entire record.
“I need time to stop moving/I need time to stay useless” is the most productive laziness we’ve ever seen (maybe). “Stay Useless” reminds us how young these Cleveland rookies are. Especially with lines like “I miss you/cause I like damage/I need something I can hurt,” from “Cut You.” Attack On Memory is Baldi’s third release, out on DC’s own Carpark Records. He dropped out of college to work full time, in his parents’ basement, on music. Baldi made two previous records alone under the name Cloud Nothings: Turning On and Cloud Nothings. A full band joined him full time for Attack On Memory (and the tour), a record he says is “an attack on the memory of what people thought the band was.” While Baldi plays guitar and sings lead, Joe Boyer is on guitar and T.J. Duke on bass. Dylan Baldi knows how to construct a song. And he knows how to construct an entire album. Attack On Memory is 33 minutes of alternative rock heaven. And just the PHRASE Cloud Nothings makes you want to live inside your stereo.
I tried to tune in to their performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Paris, just to see what their live shenanigans were like, but watching five guys in flannel (YUP) shoegaze into a roaring crowd by way of over-the-Atlantic-Internet-stream, not only seemed really lame, but it was too busy. There were too many portals to work through. Cloud Nothings played here in DC in the early winter months of 2012, back when I couldn’t get past the scream, and Rus (as always) reported back that it was a sweaty sweaty good time. I wouldn’t expect anything less.
We just got news that The ‘Nothings are working on a follow up album. THANK GOD.
Attack On Memory is a strong record. This band sounds like itself – which is always a good thing. Their songs blast through your bones. Baldi’s voice is like a mutiny, trying to overthrow itself by screaming at the top of it’s own lungs. Cloud Nothings make you go deaf. Your body gets tired from raging to their music, mentally and physically. “We started a war/attack on memory/no easy way out/forget everything.” Sounds good to me.
Best quote about the album, by the lead singer:
“Steve Albini played Scrabble on Facebook almost the entire time [we were recording]. I don’t even know if he remembers what our album sounds like.”
I need to devote more time to this album, hasn’t clicked for me.
you absolutely should. almost every record i truly love from this year is one that took me months of revisiting. a lesson in second chances.