Band: Nada Surf
Album: Lucky
Best song: “See These Bones” and “Weightless” are excellent. “I Like What You Say” is pretty good.
Worst song: It’s all pleasant.

Nada Surf’s transformation from novelty rock act (They were the band that did “Popular,” after all) to moderately successful indie rock band is kind of interesting. For one, it is the first thing every Nada Surf review mentions with the review then veering into “My Iron Lung” territory.

(Let me explain)

Radiohead’s “My Iron Lung” is a song, basically, written about a song. The titular metaphor refers to Radiohead’s “Creep,” a song that both sustained Radiohead in their early years and stuck them in a metal box. Everyone only wanted to hear “Creep” and had little interest in other stuff.

Nada Surf has a similar problem with “Popular,” even twelve years out. While Radiohead turned into Pink Floyd, Nada Surf mostly turned into a faceless indie rock band. They’re Kind of Like Spitting or Say Hi To Your Mom, with far better hooks.

Indeed, Nada Surf’s fifth album has wonderful hooks. “Whose Authority” is something Matthew Sweet would’ve put out five years ago while “From Now On” is easily the best Gin Blossoms-sounding song ever released. “I Like What You Say” is easy and smooth, while “Here Goes Something” is a nice tale of love.

The problem with Lucky is that the songs come to the precipice of greatness, but cannot finish the job. “I Like What You Say” has a wonderful chorus, but the middle eight falls apart. “Weightless” is a cool waltz that never really gets off the ground and falls in love with its Flaming Lips-influenced atmospherics too much. Despite its lows, its highs are better than nearly anything else on the record.

“See These Bones” is the album’s best track, does the near-impossible in writing about aging while still sounding inspiring. The song’s lyrics could double as a warning to the young, as sung by an elder:

Look alive, see these bones
What you are now, we were once
And just like we are, you’ll be dust
And just like we are, permanent

It’s haunting and pretty, while absolutely light enough to seem a pop song. Better than “Popular,” it is Nada Surf’s best and most lasting song.

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  • […] I last wrote about Nada Surf more than three years ago. I lauded the song “See These Bones” as a minor philosophical tome, largely because I was dealing with the recent passing of a close friend. As has been mentioned, music makes us feel a certain way because of a time in our lives. […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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