Review: The Men, Open Your Heart

So, wait – everyone’s fine with this?

Brooklyn’s the Men have been attracting some media attention lately. Not internet attention – the real kind; the square kind. The New York Times kind: in a write-up of their March 7 Williamsburg loft show, reporter Ben Ratliff vacillates between lauding the Men and disparaging them, although in the end he opts for the former. To Ratliff, they don’t stand up to close analysis. “You can wonder why the men in the Men don’t want to be better: better singers, better players, better riff writers,” he writes. “Reduce this band to its parts, and all the charm drains out of it.” Elsewhere, he notes that their songs “run beyond their natural length and just keep going” and describes their performance as “slovenly.”

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Review: Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory

This is the sound of growth, of maturation, of evolution. It’s the illustration of the axiom: talent borrows; genius steals. It’s the sound of adolescence becoming adulthood.

A grandiose introduction for a record review, to be sure. But the Cloud Nothings’ second album Attack on Memory (released in January) takes such a quantum leap from its predecessors that a little hyperbole feels in order. Until recently, Cleveland songwriter Dylan Baldi had spent his career borrowing snippets of indie rock history, churning out record after record of generic lo-fi rock. His work ethic was admirable – six singles and two albums in three years, plus a couple of cassette-only split releases and a digital single – but the music itself was forgettable, a fourth-generation tape dub of the moment indie rock became an identifiable sound.

His constant output, coupled with his age – Baldi dropped out of his first year of college to pursue music full-time – made for good press. And a songwriter that prolific no doubt has talent. But except for “I Am Rooftop” – a nod to Guided by Voices’ fascination with tape hiss and space aliens that received heavy airplay on WCDB – nothing stood out to me. What notoriety Cloud Nothings had stemmed from their story rather than their music itself. “A” for effort; ho-hum on everything else. But Attack on Memory changes that. Cloud Nothings finally stand on their own feet; they finally live up to their hype.

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