Nada Surf
The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy


3.5
great

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
January 18th, 2012 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Age is just a number.

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but early 40-somethings Nada Surf seem to be growing less and less jaded and cynical as the years wind by. They were big once, properly alternative-rock-radio big with 1996’s snarky hit “Popular,” and the only place it got them was the one-hit wonder section in your local FYE’s bargain bin. That is so often the problem with novelty hits, which the spoken-word, eminently contemptuous “Popular” obviously was, and Nada Surf have since made a career out of being the most earnest band in indie. In the hands of another group a painfully wide-eyed title like The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy would likely be the setup to a contradictory punch line – under the direction of the same band who named a song “Always Love” without a hint of artifice, it’s just another example of the kind of unfeigned sincerity these aging optimists do so well.

For most of The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy, Nada Surf are a blur of high-energy power chords and a hard-charging rhythm section in bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot that plays in a remarkable lockstep with each other. Aside from first single “When I Was Young,” which slows things down to focus on predictably cringe-inducing lyrical nostalgia, everything is tight and focused, polished clean and dashed with a healthy bit of punk-influenced crunch courtesy of producer Chris Shaw. Vocalist Matthew Caws still has that flawless tenor that gives his vocals an eternally youthful vigor, and Shaw’s work in focusing the mix on his inimitable voice while maintaining a strong focus on the power of Caws’ guitar gives The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy a pleasantly gutsy live feel. It’s the right call for an album that is filled to the brim with enthusiastic statements like “it’s never too late for teenage dreams” and other assorted feel-good credos. Caws may be approaching middle age, but he has rarely sounded as conflicted and/or hopelessly romantic as he does here, one minute lamenting the expectations of youth on “When I Was Young” and the next sounding utterly pleased at the results on “Teenage Dreams” – “sometimes I ask the wrong questions, but I get the right answers.”

It’s par for the course for Caws, who has made a career out of that ageless yelp and a decision to not worry too much about what he’s saying, instead focusing on how he says it. Caws’ energy is infectious – it’s impossible not to sing along with the sweet clichés he leaves hovering over raucous tunes like “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” or “No Snow on the Mountain.” Even when he’s wallowing in sap, you still get the feeling that he honestly just wants to let you know how he’s feeling, as directly and artlessly as possible. For all of “When I Was Young’s” oppressive sentimentality and cloying acoustic vibe, when Caws sings, “when I was young, I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up / now I’ve grown up, I wonder what was that world I was dreaming of,” his frankness is enough to tug at the heartstrings of even the most jaded 9-to-5ers. Caws’ shock at the end of the album that he “can’t believe the future’s happening to me” is another likely touchstone for Nada Surf fans, particularly those who have stuck with the band for the long haul and are likely approaching that age where “Popular” is as anachronistic to them as the rest of those cloudy teenage years. Luckily for them, Nada Surf is proof that growing old doesn’t have to be full of regrets and missed opportunities – if their career arc proves anything, it’s that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. They have kept going largely on an indefatigable attitude and a firm grasp of the finer points of the three-minute pop song, and few bands can regularly write the kind of hooks that The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy builds itself around. Improbable but true; as these ten mostly filler-free tracks prove, Nada Surf only look to be growing more confident in their old age.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
January 17th 2012


10195 Comments


god i love this band

Always Love is like one of my favourite songs ever

teenage dreams is pure nada surf

bears
January 17th 2012


106 Comments


great review but writes like its more than a 3.5

I used to play the proximity effect nonstop for ayear or two but then they just slipped of my radar, never heard anything else of theirs except for the proximity effect, which i didnt like at all.
dunno if i should check this one out or not

Knott-
Emeritus
January 17th 2012


10195 Comments


Lucky is best.

bears
January 17th 2012


106 Comments


will investigate


klap
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2012


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is definitely one of their better records but yeah Lucky is my favorite.

Digging: Tennis - Ritual In Repeat

KevinKC
January 18th 2012


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Why is the album cover "Bic Runga Belle". Nice review.


Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2012


7289 Comments


Great review Rudy.

I'm so happy that folks are slowly getting back to reviewing again. The year has finally truly started =)

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
January 19th 2012


6448 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nothing special

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Horsehammer
January 19th 2012


550 Comments


well ill definitely look into this now

KevinKC
January 20th 2012


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"No snow on the moutain" sounds like U2 at times.

ihopeuchoke
January 21st 2012


668 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No Snow on the Mountain is my favorite off the album. Sounds like something off of Lucky.

KevinKC
January 22nd 2012


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There seems to be so many "lucky" fans. I like "lucky" but it is nothing compared with "let go" or "the proximity effect" in my opinion.

klap
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2012


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Let Go is probably their best, Lucky is my second favorite

aok
January 23rd 2012


4425 Comments


to make a mountain of. your life is just a choice. but i never learned enough. to listen to the voice that told me

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2012


9034 Comments


I think I hate this band but their music is always on How I Met Your Mother and I think it's growing on me

thekorben
January 24th 2012


3 Comments


I have to say, as an astronomer working on stars, I kind of feel offended ;)

KevinKC
January 28th 2012


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah ! I think this title is kinda harsh.

Lugnuts8
February 9th 2012


3 Comments


What are the TOP 3 songs i gotta listen to on this album?

KevinKC
February 12th 2012


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The moon is calling, when I was young, let the fight do the fighting and the opening track.

Richard33
July 17th 2013


19 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed! let the fighting do the fighting is one of my favourites here



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