Houman Sadri reviews the new album by alt rock veterans Nada Surf.
In the end, it's good to know you can count on something. You see, so many bands seem so determined to re-invent the wheel every time they enter the studio or rehearsal room that being a genuine fan can be a difficult, if not dizzying experience: one can fall in love with a record, look forward to its follow-up and be confronted with something truly baffling. Perhaps your favourite punk act has decided that there has always been a happy hardcore element to their music that has just been screming to be allowed out to play. Or perhaps a previously-fun act has allowed success to go to its head, decided that record sales equate to wisdom and have released a magnum opus explaining how the world's socio-political travails can be solved via some nebulous application of love, hand-holding and the avoidance of being beastly to one another. Either way, such developments usually signify a heroic loss of plot by a group of people for whom success, fame and money have had the effect of dampening and obfuscating the original point of picking up instruments in the first place - to write and perform good songs that call out and speak to their intended audience from a place of honesty.
Nada Surf have been around for twenty years now, and in the public eye for three-quarters of that time. If they have changed since Popular hit in 1996 those changes are really only cosmetic in as much as they - by their own admission - continually attempt to bring the rawness of their live shows across in their recorded output. The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy reflects this: the guitars are cutting and raw enough, but crucially this rawness does not distract from the sunniness of the harmonies and the tunes themselves. Every track on this album is a single: this band know how to write a hook and, unlike other acts that often seem to think that writing catchy songs in some way signifies selling out, Nada Surf revel in this fact. As ever, the influence of the British Invasion and Alex Chilton are present but, crucially, this band never sound like anything but themselves. One listen to stand-outs such as Waiting For Something or Let The Fight Do The Fighting and even the coldest heart should melt just a little.
Album of the year 2012? It's too early to tell, of course, but I have a feeling this is a contender. Heartily recommended.
Written or Contributed by: Houman Sadri