Young people sound best when they are despairing the future. Attack on Memory begins promisingly, with Dylan Baldi flatly—this adjective holds in both the musical and psychic senses—urging the listener to give up. The song is called “No Future/No Past,” and it segues nicely into “Wasted Days,” in which Baldi screams over and over that he “thought [he] would be more than this.” The 20-year-old singer/songwriter seems well on his way to a healthy embitterment, but then we slam headlong into “Stay Useless,” which is like The Killers’ entry in a frat house battle of the bands. Suddenly, youthful nihilism just sounds innocent.
I blame Steve Albini, the legendary producer and misanthrope responsible for Attack on Memory’s sneering mids and punishing bass sounds. He seems to have urged Baldi in a direction he absolutely should and maybe doesn’t want to go. Attack On Memory screams like punk rock, but it keeps settling into power pop. For Cloud Nothings, the transition from lo- to hi-fi is like when the lights come on at a party show. The band is still there; it’s just uncomfortably clear that everything has been happening in a suburban basement.