Review : Nada Surf - If I Had A Hi-Fi
AvclubIf Nada Surf followed the expected narrative, the band would have broken up and become a footnote not long after scoring a novelty hit with “Popular” in 1996. Instead, the trio soldiered on, building an appreciative following around the great 2002 album Let Go, a pair of not-so-shabby follow-up albums, and winning live shows. At this point, “Popular” has become the footnote in the career of a band with a powerful pop sensibility and a knack for emotionally affecting songs.
Neither gift came out of nowhere, however, and If I Had A Hi-Fi finds Nada Surf paying tribute to its influences, which range from the expected (power-pop great Dwight Twilley, The Go-Betweens) to the surprising (Moody Blues, Kate Bush) to the obscure (a solo track from Bill Fox, frontman of Cleveland’s The Mice). It’s the best sort of covers album, reverent to the source material but not beholden to it. While Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence” offers some resistance, most the tracks here sound like Nada Surf songs, alternating jangle with power chords and powered by Matthew Caws’ resonant voice. It goes above and beyond the duty of filling the gap between original albums. And if it sends some Nada Surf fans out looking for Arthur Russell and Soft Pack albums, all the better....full text
DrownedinsoundSo began my only conversation with Ira Elliot, drummer with Nada Surf. Despite the none-too-subtle mockery, he turned out to be a real gentleman, and during our five minutes of quality time together we talked about their one big hit. He went on to talk about how, as a young band, they'd been forced to record some covers when the label hadn't heard a single on their next album. When the other members chimed in on the subject, it was pretty obvious that particular powerplay had stuck in their collective craw.
So there's a little irony to be found in the fact their first truly independent record is a collection of covers. if i had a hi-fi has been on sale at their shows for a while now, and you should know the thought of reviewing it has filled my heart with a special dread. After a couple of reasonable recent albums, a covers album did seem to be a tolling of the death knell. After all, when is there a better time to swallow your recording career? Has everyone forgotten The Spaghetti Incident? Covers albums are usually about a band running out of ideas, fulfilling contractual obligations while murdering a few standards.
But all you have to do to have if i had a hi-fi dispel those thoughts is to play it once. It comes out of the gate fast, with the opener 'Electrocution' dispensing prime power pop, fizzing with energy and hope. Their reading of Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy The Silence' encapsulates the album's approach. They cover it as if it had originally been written by The Cure in one of their pop moments, key and tempo up. It's almost unrecognisable until the chorus, and it is amazing how well the changes work....full text
BbcRather than attempting to distil all of their influences into one covers record, major label rejects-turned independent mainstays Nada Surf have chosen to capture the songs that were, as you might expect, in their hi-fis at the time of recording. Consequently and unlike most covers records, If I Had a Hi-Fi (which, rather neatly, is a palindrome) sounds wonderfully fresh and easy, but also yields some unexpected pop trinkets. Chances are this is because the range of artists covered is wide enough and, crucially, the record sounds like it would’ve made a good mix-tape even if they hadn’t recorded it themselves.
They rollick mightily on the likes of Bill Fox’s Electrocution and a masterfully perky version of The Go-Betweens’ Love Goes On, but they also find emotional depths to plumb on Kate Bush’s Love and Anger. In fact, the Bush track sees vocalist Matthew Caws at his most imitative (complete with a range of rhythmic tics and copied idiosyncrasies), but the meat of the song is never forgotten. Cannily, they manage to get to the very root of all the material with ease, with no more tools than spangly guitars and some decently constructed vocal harmonies. If anything, it’s a testament to the value of taut efficiency in rock ensembles.
The very strongest examples are perhaps the most well-known choices. Their considerable overhaul of Question by The Moody Blues is, like the original, a double-headed beast, by turns raucous and beautiful, but Nada Surf dutifully amplify the raucous, prettify the beautiful and transform it into something quite far-reaching. Likewise, Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode might not be the most surprising choice, but it is tremendously affecting thanks to the breezy weariness of the delivery....full text
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