For those of you out there who still love all that mid-to-late ’90s alternative teen indie rock like Nada Surf, your lucky day is Oct. 20, as the hit-makers roll into the Aladdin Theater with Say Hi To Your Mom in tow. Now, for those of us who don’t remember, Nada Surf generated quite a bit of buzz way back in 1996, when their album High/Low netted a major hit single. “Popular,” a song poking fun at high-school stereotypes, climbed to a respectable number 11 on the grunge-lite infested charts. MTV picked up their video and everything seemed to be coming up Nada Surf. But it was not to be, as the trio’s follow-up album, The Proximity Effect, was deemed by their label Elektra as not having any singles, and by me to have a silly, trying-to-sound-cool name. Much wrangling ensued, and the group was dropped from the label, only to wrangle their album rights back to release it independently in 2000. They managed to avert being relegated to indie rock one-hit wonders with the 2002 release of Let Go, a record that delivered Death Cab For Cutie-influenced indie pop, the kind that is often described by music journalists with flowery adjectives like “soaring” and “expansive.” Now, in my experience that just means the band threw in some keyboards or maybe a string quartet, but in any case, the move brought Nada Surf back onto the map.
Which brings us to their new album, The Weight Is a Gift, released this year. The album follows the trend set on their last long player, with Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla stepping in behind the mixing board to give it the kind of saccharine, maudlin indie pop feel that saved Nada Surf from the “where are they now” file. Back from the dead, the group has some spirit for keepin’ on, and their earnest endorsement of indie rock cliche guarantees them a place in the realm of Western-shirt wearing guys with tales of woe.
This ethos is also reflected in their choice of opener, the one-man collective Say Hi To Your Mom. Now, there are obvious problems with that name, and I could at length lambaste its creator, a “boy named Eric,” but instead I will encourage you to make your own evaluation based on this choice selection of lyric from the song “Yeah, I’m in Love With an Android” from Say Hi To Your Mom’s latest album, Ferocious Mopes: “But I swore I’m done with humans and I like to keep my word/And she beeps for me every time it’s time to go water the fern.” Cutesy, endearing and secretly meaningful? Or trite, ham-handed and annoying? You decide.
Personally, I’m not so hot on this kind of stuff. I don’t want to hear a bunch of wimpy string arrangements and a dweeby-looking guy warbling in a bad falsetto about how hard his life is. But hey, I know a lot of you readers go for that kind of thing, and will probably send me loads of nasty letters for being an insensitive fascist. Maybe we can meet up after the Nada Surf concert and have a good old chat, and you’ll see that I’m really not such a bad guy at all.