90’s alt rockers Nada Surf returned to their home turf of NYC to embrace fans with some brand new tunes, gorgeous harmonies, and glorious sing-alongs. I have seen this band over a dozen times in the past, but I must admit this show was especially exciting to me as I found their last album, 2012’s The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, to one of their finest yet, and certainly the most rich and mature of all their efforts. So, I was excited to see if their new stuff showed signs of living up to that previous work of such excellence.
Opening the show was Brooklyn’s own deadly femme-fronted trio Slothrust, and it’s easy to see why Nada picked them for an opening spot. Lead singer and guitarist Leah Wellbaum is lost adrift in the zone between a force of nature and an otherworldly act of dark magic. Her lyrics are fascinating in their depth, cryptic surrealism, and deeply smoky sensuality, and her guitar playing always seems to fit the bill as sometimes quirky and silly abut often shredding into other planes of existence. It’s almost like if Kim Deal finally took control of the Pixies and somehow resurrected Frank Zappa to replace Frank Black. If you haven’t already, you should really pick up their debut LP Of Course You Do from last year, it may just give you heady trip you’ve been longing for.
Nada Surf became quite “Popular” from the get go with their first album and a couple radio play hits in the mid 90’s, but were always in a strange position for an alternative rock band of their genre, stuck in a fandom somewhere between Nirvana and Weezer, but actually sounding and appealing much more between Built to Spill and Teenage Fanclub. Despite having some real strong pop appeal, singer and guitarist Matthew Caws always spun a lyrical and harmonic sense that transcended an existential emotional and structural barrier like no one else in modern music, and that made it easy to leave a very unique place in fans’ hearts. Having seen the trio Nada formation a couple times back in the 90’s with the amazing rhythm and harmony section of Daniel Lorca and Ira Elliot propelling their music into other dimensions, I must say the band has grown immeasurably since then, and their finest (and fan favorite) albums didn’t even come until the early 2000’s either. Much of my love of their last album as well as their continuing live lineup is undoubtedly abetted by their fourth member, the amazingly gifted solo artist and former Guided by Voices and Death of Samantha guitarist Doug Gillard, who really helps craft the ethereal sonic landscape like an expert landscaper.
As previously stated, the big push of them heading out back on the road this time is to work out some new material for an upcoming album, to which Matthew was still unwilling to cop to a release date to yet, or at least as of the Webster Hall show, but it all proved to be a rediscovery of faith and heart for pretty much everyone. In a set full of big fan favorites and seriously deep cuts (and no “Popular” thankfully), it proved to be a rich night of sing-alongs, with the likes of “Blizzard of ’77,” “Killian’s Red,” a song about growing up in NYC (to which he pointed out his Mom in the balcony) and one of my modern favs “When I Was Young,” as well a song I really did not expect to hear, but I love that they pulled out, called “The Fox,” and then there was “See These Bones,” which almost made me cry as its poignant timing so soon after the Paris terrorist attacks really hit close to the heartstrings. Of the new material there was a couple solid rockers called “Animal” and “Cold,” but it was the profoundly chilling love song “Friend Hospital” that really gave me Goosebumps and left me happy in the knowledge this new album is really going embrace my heart once again, whenever it will be released that is.
Article: Dean Keim