Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

Nada Surf -- Let Go
Barsuk Records; 2003

Let Go, Nada Surf's latest offering, is a desperate appeal to be taken seriously. After their hit single "Popular" left the charts, so did the band from the minds of music listeners. Now they're faced with the challenge to prove that they have left their high school days behind. This doesn't mean they've abandoned their pop roots completely in a pile of notes from girls and gym socks. Their time out of the public eye gave them time to attempt crafting their song writing skills to include not only poppy hooks, but also a sense of emotion not conveyed in the past. Their success was rather marginal.

The album starts off with the gorgeous song of longing, "Blizzard of '77", in which acoustic guitar blends with heartfelt vocal harmonies. The lyrics "I miss you more than I knew" stand out thanks to the relative sparseness of the song. It's a surprising choice for first song on the album, but a good one none the less.

The first appearance of the full band on "Happy Kid" is startlingly different to those who can only remember Nada Surf's most famous moment. The song uses simple guitar and bass parts that bring Death Cab for Cutie to mind, but utilizes slide guitar during the bridge to help flesh it out, and is definitely a welcome addition.

Let Go contains a few tracks that seem to be direct reinterpretations of whatever was on the band's turntable at the time. "Inside of Love" is guitarist/vocalist Matthew Caws' Coldplay moment, with guitar parts that are stunningly similar to "Yellow" but without the bite. The vocals soar like the song's inspiring hook, with the addition of soft backing vocals. "The Way You Wear Your Head" not so subtly plunders the lyrics "I want to want you / I need to need you / I love to love you" from the Cheap Trick classic. Using songs for inspiration is good and well, but when a band blatantly takes lyrics, it doesn't say much for their originality.

In fact, the relatively childish and often pointless lyrics are at the heart of Let Go's flaws. Caws delivers of some of the worst lyrics I've heard on a serious album, and does so without irony. "See the creatures all do their dances / back and forth / you get restless and then you join them / on the floor." They may not be re-writing their first album, but this shows little progression in Caws' lyrical abilities (which makes his previous theft more understandable). It's unfortunate, but the beautiful lyrics in "The Blizzard of '77" are overshadowed by the insipid drivel of the rest of the album.

Although it may appear that Nada Surf has matured since their first flirtation with the limelight, it seems that they've just changed the style of pop that they brought to the table. Unfortunately, that can't mask the often ridiculous lyrics that will most likely keep Nada Surf from having another shot at what they want to be: Popular.

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