Nada Surf are one of those bands that I perennially keep meaning to check out. Forever destined it would seem to dwell in the Heard of ‘em but not heard em’ pile until fate brought us together.
Well today is that day. Five albums in and bathing in all that ‘legendary cult status’ crap that goes with American College Radio Indie after a few years of existence, regardless of any substance or quality. Unfortunately, give or take the odd gem, the medium in which it was born is precisely where it is always going to belong • the radio. Things that sound good on the airwaves won’t necessarily work elsewhere because they are more often than not indebted to an ideal, one which has to leave the listener satisfied, happy and with a minty fresh taste in their mouth.
Opener ‘See these bones’ lolls along with a gorgeous twinkle of melancholy and the introspection of a late night at the beach, when the cheap cider reaches that part of the brain which controls sentimentality. It reminds me of something. Actually it reminds me of LOTS of things. This has most certainly been done before, but maybe not often this well. Yet, the vocals are of course horribly perfect, predictably harmonious and of that over familiar beach boys-lite style that has pervaded stuff like this for years. Equally ‘Whose authority’ and ‘Beautiful Beat’ are nice but dim, and like most songs here, are singles in waiting should they picked to kill 3 minutes of your dwindling life by a record company exec. The singer mentions drinks and pills but you don’t believe him for a milisecond. A little pang of insipidness kills the imaginary reputation I had inadvertently built up for them and another one bites the dust as they say..
There are bitter sweet melodies in the mix and a one of the loveliest guitar sounds this side of Johnny Marr’s Gibson 335, but something is not really happening. A band on top form certainly, but one whose top form is never going to trouble the big boys at the top end of the table.
‘Weightless’ is not by any means a departure but possesses a superiority over the four previous tracks that I can’t quite put my finger on. It seems a little more naturally formed and is quite touching to say the least. Catchy but not contagious. ‘Are you Lightning’ resembles one of those songs that your Dad used to play in the car and you quite liked if you were honest. The pseudo country lead licks and piano chords a guilty pleasure not to be denied. It belongs in another decade and maybe another record collection but is a pleasure nonetheless.
Elsewhere, ‘LUCKY’ does have its finer points amongst the sphere of 70’s cheese. ‘The Fox’ causes a cock of the head, with its moody bass, stuttering drums and general darker overtone of flickering minor chord eeriness. Culminating in a swirl of bleak cello, it’s quite different to the likes of the painfully sunny 'I like what you say' and is all the better for it. 'The Film did not go Round' is a delicate dollop of Donovan-esque folk which adds a pertinent full stop to the album, but perversely, the little outburst of instrumental brass at the climax of 'Ice On the Wing' has got to be the main highlight.
Much better than the pathetic dirge of The Thrills and Snow Patrol but well short of obvious heroes REM, this ranks somewhere in the middle (of the road..). So frigging radio friendly, Nada Surf and that DAB you got for Christmas 2 years ago will be sharing a bed in no time. Good luck to them…