September 30, 1998
The Proximity Effect
From confusion springs sophistication....
7 / 10
FROM CONFUSION SPRINGS sophistication. At least in the case of Nada Surf, whose songwriting ethos is summed up when Matthew Caws ponders, "When exactly are we?/I get the decades mixed up..." halfway through 'Amateur'.
The New York trio's first effort since the cheeky 'Popular' brought them recognition two years ago races along lickety-split through a catalogue of influences. Yet although these sonic touchstones (obviously, The Beach Boys; less obviously, Sting) couldn't be more apparent, they are assimilated seamlessly into Nada Surf's own idiosyncrasies, seemingly more by accident than design.
Relying on insouciant charm, Nada Surf project guilelessness. Lyrics are occasionally thumpingly idiotic - the juvenile retort of 'Why Are You So Mean To Me?', the strained 'Mother's Day' - but reveal flashes of lackadaisical brilliance. The icily beautiful '80 Windows', for example, with its barbed lament "The moon is closer to the sun/Than I am to anyone", indicates a sweet profundity lurking under the goofy veneer.
Nada Surf are trying to fool us, but make no mistake, wise minds and dextrous fingers are at work, edging ever closer to both the ridiculous and the sublime.
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