Review Summary: No, they do NOT sound like Weezer1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Nada Surf's debut album "High/Low" was a solid if unspectacular offering of alt rock with post punk elements. Follow up "The Proximity Effect" was a big step up in quality, and it foreshadowed the greatness that the band would soon achieve with the double whammy of "Let Go" and "The Weight is a Gift". While it is not quite a classic album, it is unique in the way that it combines expansive Beatle-esque pop with heavy alt rock dynamics. The band has since foregone the muscular elements that are prominent here.
The rousing pop rock sparkle of "Hyperspace" kicks things off with defiant drive. The song dares us to feel glee despite the fact that we live in a soul sucking world of ***. "I can see it all, and I'm Ok" sings Matthew Caws, emotionally exhausted but still perseverant; "I wish there was another way". Oh, how we wish there was another way, but still we somehow forge on.
That is the spirit that pervades the album. These songs are not "uplifting" in the sense that they assure us we will ultimately find redemption. But they rock with a passion that doggedly resists the prospect of being completely consumed by cynicism.
Only "80 Windows" teeters dangerously on the precipice of despair, despondence threatening victory. A clean guitar strums dissonantly over a morosely rigid backbeat. The song has the ominous dissonance of a sedated Sonic Youth piece like "Heather Angel" from "A Thousand Leaves". The lyrics speak of an almost irremediable isolation, an isolation so profound that it cannot be measured. The rest of the songs are touched by this despair, but they fight against it.
"Bacardi" and "Dispossession" feature intricate falsetto harmonies over rock that surges and swerves. "Spooky" features another Sonic Youth inspired guitar line that builds into a bombastically boiling anthem of lamentation. "Mother's Day" features the sharpest riffing of any Nada Surf song to date, its indignant groove supporting Caws' rant against date rapists.
The lyrics here are pretty simplistic, though they do have some of the nuance and subtlety that would become more prominent with "Let Go". But the simple lyrics are not a liability and in a big way they are a plus. The direct nature of the lyrics compliments the way that this music cuts directly to the heart.
This music has a lot of heart, but it does not rely on pathos for its efficacy. Essentially, this album rocks. It has great melodies and sophisticated dynamics, and you'll enjoy it whether you're a cherub or a curmudgeon.