I named my first blog after a lyric from one of their songs, so it would be remiss of me not to add Nada Surf to the list of bands I’ve done a Discography feature for. So here it is…
Released two years after Weezer’s debut album and produced by the same man (Ric Ocasek from The Cars), Nada Surf were lumped in with the Weezer clones when their first album came out. That prejudice wasn’t helped by the fact that their breakthrough hit was a geek-rock masterpiece called Popular, mixing spoken word dating tips with a chugging chorus, nor the fact that there wasn’t reallty anything else on High/Low that was as memorable. It’s still got some great tracks and I’ve got a definite soft spot for it, even if it’s a lot more rough around the edges than their later work and is no match for that other album that Ocasek produced around that time.
The Proximity Effect (1998)
The success of Popular put pressure on Nada Surf to deliver similarly memorable singles on their follow-up, and when they didn’t meet the expectations of their record label and found themselves being pressured and interfered with, it all fell apart. They quit the label and The Proximity Effect went unreleased in their own country and had little promotion over here (though it was a success in France apparently). All of which is a big shame because it’s a huge step forward from High/Low, with some fantastic songs showing the kind of songwriting maturity that has characterised them since, mostly notably on the beautiful 80 Windows. Thankfully, it’s since been independently released by the band and fits in well in the gap between High/Low and the rest of their career.
Let Go (2002)
Four years later and with their public profile (outside of France) pretty much back at zero, Nada Surf defied the odds by returning with an album that may not have taken them back to their mid-90s peak of popularity, but found them unexpectedly critical darlings. It came out in Europe first, only getting an American release a year later and it’s a huge leap from the first two albums, with a softer sound working perfectly. Blonde On Blonde’s lyrics inspired the name of my first blog, while Blizzard Of ’77 and Inside Of Love are also perfect showcases for Nada Surf’s new sound, and Là Pour Ça reflected their increasing affection for all things Gallic. A great comeback album.
The Weight Is A Gift (2005)
The band kept up the quality levels with this confident and impressive follow-up, which features the fantastic Always Love. Production comes from Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, which shows how Nada Surf had managed to find their place in the US alternative scene again after years in the wilderness, and everything on here sounds like a band who know who they are and where they’re going. It’s hard to pick out favourite tracks, because they’re all great, though obviously Always Love is the definite stand-out. A sign of their increasing significance came a few years later when Matthew Caws and Ira Elliot helped folk rock legends America perform a cover of it on their well-received Here And Now album.
Three years on and there was still no sign of the band letting go of their creative boom period, as Lucky was just as good as its predecessors and was released to just as much critical acclaim, even if they have never quite managed to convert that into big sales. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab is amongst the guests, helping out on the wonderful See These Bones (along with Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger), while Ed Harcourt joins in on my personal favourite (and my ringtone for a couple of years) Beautiful Beat. Another guest is Coralie Clément, a French singer who they pay tribute to on their next album, but to be honest, none of these appearances make it sound like anything other than another great Nada Surf album, which is exactly what it is.
If I Had A Hi-Fi (2010)
There’s always a slight sense of disappointment when one of your favourite bands announces that their new album is going to be a covers record rather than having any original material. However, If I Had A Hi-Fi is a very good example of how to do something like this right. It’s all about music that inspires the band, largely by acts that are hardly household names, and contains two songs by European artists (including Coralie Clément, mentioned above). There’s some more familiar stuff too, not least a really good cover of Enjoy The Silence by Depeche Mode and Love And Anger by Kate Bush, but while it still leaves you waiting for the next ‘proper’ Nada Surf album, it does give you plenty of other music to explore, which I think is the point of something like this.