Stranded In Stereo: My Formative Years: "High/Low" by Nada Surf, 1996

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Formative Years: "High/Low" by Nada Surf, 1996

Flashback to Summer 1996: I was at my (Great) Grandmother's house, watching MTV as per usual, when at 8 in the morning, this cheerleader appears before my eyes. She stands in the hallway, talking to yet another cheerleader, before walking away and one of the most familiar guitar licks in my existence was played before me.

Cut to a man, Mr. Caws scribbled on the chalkboard, trademark black framed glasses, reading from
Penny's Teenage Guide To Dating, giving his students the rules and guidelines for dating in high school. As he continues to lecture the class, becoming more and more enthralled by the topic, he finally runs out of breath when they reach the infamous chorus. This finds Mr. Caws with pupils Lorca, Daniel and Elliot, Ira, rocking it on the football field.

Such a catchy song "Popular" was that it caught on and would eventually lump Nada Surf in to the ill-fated category of One Hit Wonder for the better part of a decade. 1998's amazing
The Proximity Effect went totally overlooked in the states (I found it was released thanks to one of those Columbia House inserts in Spin.) The story of this Brooklyn trio being dropped by a major label for failing to deliver "Popular: The Sequel" is an obvious tale that we can save for another time if you aren't smart enough to catch on. High/Low, their debut released on Elektra in July of 1996, packed the punch. Produced by Ric Ocasek, who was fresh off his producing stint with Weezer, brought the same deck of cards to Nada Surf's table. Scrupulous bass lines introduce us to "The Plan," before electric guitars squeal and cymbals crash. For the longest time, and now over a decade later, I'm still fixated on this one song and album opener "Deeper Well." They sounded nothing like "Popular," being more muddled and dirty. Other songs like "Treehouse" and "Zen Brain" are cleaner and radio friendly, while Daniel Lorca's turn at the mic on "Icebox" is the deepest of album cuts.

I've seen Nada Surf twice, and gotten the chance to spend quality time with them that involve me scribbling the nerdiest of journal entries that no one will ever read (though they are on the web somewhere.) It's just weird growing up, listening to this band you saw once on MTV, falling in love with their music because it connects with you on so many levels, and then 5 years later you run in to their dreadlocked bass player, say hi, and he drops his gear to talk to me for the better part of an hour before inviting me to join him and the rest of the band outside to talk about whatever. Like with Cake, it's funny that I was so young and listening to them, and now with the success of their later albums, Let Go and The Weight Is A Gift, that everyone is in to them. They've sort of enjoyed the best second coming I've known of, signing to Barsuk and playing by their own rules. And you know what, (ha ha,) they're more popular now than they were a decade ago.

It all started here:

Buy: High/Low [Here]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks :)
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