Nada Surf : London W1 Borderline

College rock for the 21st century...

Tonight’s show, like the rest of Nada Surf‘s brief tour, serves as a warm-up for their NME-sponsored outing with The Vines. On the face of it, this veteran New York trio, all staring at the wrong side of 30, couldn’t be more different than Craig Nicholls and his junk food-fed henchmen.

They don’t do a lot onstage. They stroll on smiling, assume positions and stay there until the end of the gig. Frontman Matthew Caws fiddles nervously with his hair. As spectacles go, it’s hardly Fischerspooner.

Like The Vines, though, Nada Surf‘s inspiration is drawn from the sounds of the early-’90s college rock boom. But while The Vines pour everything through a Nirvana filter, Nada Surf chip a little from indie-rock and jangle-noise pop pioneers Sebadoh, a bit from prime Teenage Fanclub and quite a lot from the smouldering angst of US alt.rock nearly-men Buffalo Tom. It’s a peculiar and old-fashioned brew, but it melds in a way that’s deeply satisfying.

Most of tonight’s material is lifted from new album ‘Let Go’ and it has a deceptive menace and charge that was glossed over in the studio. While the sounds of ‘Fruit Fly’ and ‘Inside Of Love’ charm, Caws’ words of loss, fear, displacement and confusion have a disquieting edge and steel that more brash bands in the new rock vanguard would kill for. Their sardonic ascent starts here.

Paul McNamee