March 26, 2008
Brooklyn-based Pop trio Nada Surf have been together for over a decade. They broke onto the scene in 1996 with Elektra records and the Ric Ocasek (The Cars) produced High/Low. That album spawned their MTV hit, “Popular,” a direct-talk song that has been imitated numerous times since.
In a familiar trajectory, the band soon soured on the corporate flatulence of being performing monkeys for a major label; splitting to release subsequent albums on a couple of Indie labels (including the long delayed album Proximity Effect)- finally ending up with the Seattle-based Barsuk label.
The band have now produced six albums (the last three on Barsuk), including the out-of-print North 6th Street and a couple of EPs over the intervening years since their debut. Their cool, harmony based songs have matured over the years as well, with singer/guitarist Matthew Caws providing thoughtful lyrics over memorable melodies. They have developed a sound akin to bands such as the Shins and Death Cab For Cutie (the peripatetic Chris Walla of Death Cab produced their 2005 album The Weight Is A Gift)
Performing before a near full house of appreciative fans at the Crystal Ballroom, the Surfers drew heavily from their three most recent albums: Let Go, from 2003; The Weight Is A Gift and their brand new 2008 release Lucky. With Caws leading the way, supported by be-dredded bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot, the band ran through a brisk set of their hits (and should-be hits), beginning with two uptempo selections from Let Go: “Hi-Speed Soul” and “Happy Kid,” the band then moved to a more moderate musical stance, with a cut from the new album, “On Whose Authority” and “What Is Your Secret” from The Weight.
A dedicated blogger, Caws gave repeated shout outs to members of the audience, whom he knew through the internet; delivering birthday wishes to one devoted fan. Meanwhile, the band hit its stride with stirring versions of “Killian’s Red” “Inside Of Love” and “Fruit Fly” from Let Go, before launching into the obligatory performance of the song that originally won them fame: “Popular,” although they raced through it without much enthusiasm, obviously tired of performing the song for so many years.
The back end of the set was loaded with songs from the new album- “Ice On The Wing,” “Are You Lightning” and “Beautiful Beat” before launching into their latest hit, the poignant “See These Bones,” a song that could easily pass for one of Death Cab For Cutie’s best (Ben Gibbard even sings on the album version of this song). A fine version of “Blonde On Blonde” wrapped up the show. The band returned to encore with a sterling version of one of their other hits, “Always Love,” wrapping up a solid set of well-wrought songs.
Nada Surf are among the second tier of good bands, whom have yet to break it big on the national scene (ala Death Cab), but are slowly moving up the ladder of success, all the same (their previous Portland gig was at Doug Fir, in January). The band’s level of commitment to their craft, and the infectiousness of their material, guarantee that they will be reaching the higher rungs of that ladder very soon.