Nada Surf - You Know Who You Are
Twenty years is a long time to hone one’s craft, and after extensively touring five albums in the last ten years we expect few missteps from New York’s power pop favourites Nada Surf. Their new album You Know Who You Are is their first as a four piece, with Doug Gillard joining: Daniel Lorca and Ira Elliot, with Matthew Caws as ever providing the band’s signature melodic vocals.
We’re in familiar territory from the opening track ‘Cold to See Clear’ as Caws’s warm vocals reference the nostalgic trope of radio on top of jangly guitars. Like Steve Winwood’s infectious ‘Valerie’, throughout the album we imagine driving along to commercial radio in the California sunshine, an imagined scenario where things are neat and tidy and know their place.
It’s easy to compartmentalise power pop especially since its drift from the mainstream, but there are varied reference points: ‘Believe You’re Mine’ reminds of REO Speedwagon building towards the inevitable energised chorus, but the more relaxed ‘Friend Hospital’ downshifts to Teenage Fanclub including their fun indulgent guitar solos. ‘Animal’ with Bob Dylan stylised vocals and Beach Boys harmonies is quite a treat.
Caws’s lyrics are known for their earnest substance rather than complex expression. With its Byrds guitars – and a horn section – ‘Out of the Dark’ stands out musically and lyrically: “It’s the way we explain all the seasons / From the summer to the dying leaves” concurrently looks forward, and looks back at looking forward.
A clue’s in the potentially self-reflective title, You Know Who You Are. Nada Surf both know who they are and who their target audience is, and there’s plenty of both nostalgia and life lessons for them to share down the family line with a new generation of potential fans.