It's unsettling how the first track off Cloud Nothings' new LP makes one want to drop everything and flop on the ground in an arrested development expression of perma-teen angst. It's hard to even type these words when the song is playing. It's hard to lift my hands. I just want to listen to the melancholic chug-chug of dangling chords, bursts of crashing cymbals, and singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi's stretched-out moan, “No Future/No Past.” I don't want to do anything.
But that first track is something of a subterfuge as the rest of the album truly picks up beat-and-tone-wise, though the lyrics remain similarly restless. The second song off Attack on Memory peels me off the floor. By track four, "Stay Useless," I'm nearly dancing, it's nearing popped traditional emo, though still in that morose, everything-is-fucked clattering noise – recorded, as breathlessly reported in every story on the band, by the legendary musician-producer Steve Albini (Shellac, forever linked to Nirvana).
And that's when I realize I love this record, I love everything about it: the trick start, the nouveu-grunge milieu, Baldi's struggling vocals, suburban angst at its best. And the kicker: dude is only 20. He was maybe 2-years-old when Kurt Cobain died. And, perhaps even more surprising, he's totally likeable, offering stoney laughs during our chat, and affably answering surely oft-repeated queries:
SFBG: How's it going?
Dylan Baldi: Hey, I'm fine.
SFBG: How tired are you of talking about Steve Albini?
DB: I'm pretty tired of that [laughs], but if you have questions I don't mind it.
SFBG: I can imagine, but people are obsessed with him. So I here I go – just wondering what your experience was like working with him?
DB: We were only there for four days and he's a nice guy. He was pretty hands-off in terms of actually coming up with things to do but I kind of like that. I wasn't looking for someone to tell us what to do with our songs, I just wanted someone to make the record sound good, and he did.
SFBG: The first Cloud Nothings record you recorded alone, correct?
SFBG: So when you recorded that first album was it almost an accident? Were you intentionally making a new project?
DB: Yeah it was sort of an accident, I just made two songs and put them online and someone liked it and wanted to put out a tape, so I made some more songs. It's spiraled from there yeah. [This] started about two years ago.
SFBG: How long was the gap between putting it up on the Web and an interest being generated?
DB: It was literally two or three days. Super fast. It was on Myspace and a couple of blogs picked it up right away.
SFBG: Pretty awesome. So when did you start writing 'Attack on Memory?' What influenced you during that time?
DB: Last June pretty much. One of the big influences musically is a band called the Wipers. I was listening to them a lot over the year, between the two records. I guess musically also I wanted to do something that wasn't like the last record, so it was a conscious effort to make something a little different.
SFBG: How did you discover the Wipers?
DB: A friend first told me about them, and I got their first couple records and I really like them and I couldn't stop listening to them.
SFBG: They're such an underrated punk band, it's weird that people don't talk about them more.
DB: They totally are! I was going to say exactly what you're saying, it's weird that more people don't know about them. They're amazing.
SFBG: What was the first record you ever bought with your own money?
DB: Oh! Um, I think it was probably Apollo 18 by They Might Be Giants. I was into them, I'm still into them.
SFBG: What are the some of the records you've guys have been listening to on this tour?
DB: You know that song by Ozzy Osbourne, “Mr. Crowley” – it goes like [singing] “Miiiister Crooowley” [laughs]. It starts off with this crazy keyboard thing? We listen to that song a lot. As far as full-length records, our goal today is to listen to Death Magnetic by Metallica because we have a 12-hour drive and that's a good album. I guess we don't listen to a lot of like, “good” music.