Rather like his British contemporaries Yuck, Ohio’s Dylan Baldi wears his influences on his sleeve – influences that he’s far too young to remember first time around.
This time though, for Baldi’s third album, things are a bit different. Whereas before jangly names such as Teenage Fanclub and The La’s could be easily spotted, for Attack On Memory the feel is scuzzier, muscular and far more intense than we’ve heard before.
Some credit for this should go to Steve Albini, who brings his unmistakable influence to the production desk, but it’s mostly a tribute to Baldi who, by recording with a band for the first time, has raised his songs to a whole new level.
The ambition is demonstrated immediately by opening track No Future/No Past, which builds slowly but deliberately from a stately piano introduction to a fully charged guitar assault with Baldi’s voice croaking like that of a man twice his age.
If that introduction is a surprise, then Wasted Days is a revelation – nine minutes of pure punk rock adrenaline, featuring so many impressive riffs that it’s easy to imagine a new generation discovering the joys of air guitar. Despite the song’s length, there’s a tight focus throughout that means not a note is wasted.
Albini’s fingerprints are all over Attack On Memory – loud, pounding drums, raw serrated guitars, and Baldi’s vocals are untreated and close to the mic. Yet, married to Baldi’s undoubted commercial sensibilities and love of a good hook, magic is generated.
Baldi’s lyrics are sometimes a bit emo-lite (“I thought I was worth more than this”, “no one knows our plans for us, we won’t last long” and there’s even a song called Stay Useless) but they’re perfectly suited to his drawl of a voice – it’s not a pretty vocal by any means, but like old Albini collaborators like Kurt Cobain and David Gedge, it works beautifully here.
Besides, it’s Baldi’s interplay with his new band that really impresses here – the staggeringly good instrumental Separation for instance, or the surprisingly singalong chorus of Fall In. The driving, fuzzy refrain of the brilliant Our Plans recall prime R.E.M. or Bob Mould – quite an achievement for an artist barely into his 20s.
They may not quite have the stature to be described as the new Fugazi or Husker Dü, but at just eight tracks and 30 minutes long, Attack On Memory is a short, sharp shock to breathe life into the currently rather lifeless genre of indie-rock.