Nada Surf – Let Go
By Joe Vallejos
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The music industry constantly tries to buck this axiom, issuing new releases from acts long past their expiration date. Nada Surf has been trying to live down their first impression on America since 1996, putting out at least four albums since MTV made “Popular,” their high school melodrama from High/Low, a one-hit wonder.
The follow up, 1998’s outstanding The Proximity Effect, left the band in limbo with no American distribution. Only super fans like Nada Columnist Sean Oliver, who recently re-introduced me to the band, sought out the import version.
Having signed with Barsuk earlier this year, the trio put out Let Go, a collection of songs that continues to show their growth since the days of “Popular.”
Where The Proximity Effect showcased Nada Surf as a guitar pop band with most of the songs upbeat in tempo, Let Go employs a slower, more melodic style, with the band playing a lot more ballads than on previous works. It took a few listens to downshift from the peppier style, which isn’t completely absent.
Let Go has a little something for everyone, with acoustic numbers like “Blizzard of ‘77” and power pop numbers like “Happy Kid.” On “Hi-Speed Soul,” the first single, there’s even a New Order-esque breakdown with a bass line you’d swear came straight from Peter Hook.
References to Bob Dylan, love, fruit flies, and their own taste of success are a few of the album’s lyrical reference points. On “Fruit Fly,” they seem content with their place in the music world. “What can you do but go on?/Oh no you make your own mistakes/I cannot bring them back to you.”
The slower pace takes some time to absorb, but even the greatest bands have to turn down the house lights and bring it down a notch now and then, and once Let’s Go settles in, you might just agree that dismissing Nada Surf as just “that band who sang ‘Popular’” is a definite mistake. – (7.5-10)