Cloud Nothing’s second full-length effort, Attack On Memory, is impressive both in its affectation and its bite, improving on 2011′s self-titled debut across the board. Memory is the portrait of a band evolving and prospering in an age that is less than amenable to second albums, where one week’s hype is next week’s passé (see: the Bon Iver backlash that seems to be building momentum or bands like Tapes ‘n’ Tapes who’ve seemingly been met mostly with shrugs after well-received debuts). All that said, Attack On Memory should not be praised simply because it avoids being a sophomore stumble. Instead, it should be praised for one of the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll records in recent memory.
The tone of the album is established by opener ‘No Future/No Past’, with its plodding rhythm section, sparse guitar line, and paint-peeling vocal performance. Dark and brooding continues to replace the light and borderline-bratty on the second track, ‘Wasted Days.’ It’s tempting to call the song the album’s centerpiece, regardless of its early position in the tracklist; it spend its nearly nine-minute span pushing tension (and singer Dylan Baldi’s voice) to a breaking point. Some much needed stress-relief follows this pummelling one-two, as the band demonstrates mastery of pop conventions on ‘Fall In’ and ‘Stay Useless’. The other album standout is the instrumental ‘Separation’, which mixes a fairly-straight forward pop in the verse with an odd breakdown of guitar harmonics. The album’s title proves to be apt, as it constantly challenges (or destroys) any preconceived notion of what Cloud Nothings’ music is supposed to sound like.
The well-honed pop-sensibilities displayed on Cloud Nothings’ debut are not only retained on Attack On Memory, but have also evolved a significant edge. The band flexes considerable experimental muscle throughout the album, seemingly unafraid to explore structures and textures, producing an album that could very easily be classified as confrontational. All in all, a standout rock album with more than a hint of danger.