I tried to entitle this post “The Best ‘Had a Novelty Hit in the Late 90s and Everyone Probably Thinks They’ve Gone the Way of Third Eye Blind But They’re Still Around and Really Hitting Their Musical Stride’ Band You’ve Never Heard Of” but ExpressionEngine got all mad at me and denied me like the peasant I am.
OK, EE didn’t get mad at me. I just ran out of space in the “Title” field.
I just came back from seeing Nada Surf at the Aladdin. Fun Portland Factlet: The Aladdin used to be a stroke movie theater. The beady-eyed hag who sits behind me in the office once informed me proudly that she saw Debbie Does Dallas there with her husband. If you guys knew N., you’d pity me this piece of TMI, because she looks, acts and sounds like George Costanza’s mother’s slutty younger sister. The urge to throw myself out of the third-story window after imagining N. and her husband (equally hideous) watching an X-rated movie was strong, but I beat it back. Barely.
Ahem. Sorry for the slight de-rail. Back to pimping one of my favorite bands, Nada Surf.
You’ll just have to forgive them for “Popular,” which was a minor hit in… 97? 98? The album, High/Low, was really uneven overall, with a couple of good songs but the rest being drek.
I bought High/Low on a very foolish impulse, and it kind of kicked around in my CD collection, gathering dust. Two years ago, however, I was watching Conan O’Brien, and they came on. Frankly, I was shocked they were still around. I was positive they’d bitten the dust ages ago, together with bands like Tonic (remember them? Actually, please don’t, blech). And their song? It didn’t suck. In fact, I really liked it.
Turned out that they had a new-ish album out called Let Go, and lo, it was very, very good. Yes, the lyrics were sometimes awful, but when the boys got it right, they got it RIGHT. And the music? Tres, tres jolie. Plus there’s a song in there sung entirely in French. French with a heavy American high-school tang, but it’s still amazingly pretty, and as amusing as listening to somebody with a very heavy French accent sing in English.
Their latest album, The Weight is a Gift, doesn’t have quite as many perfect songs as Let Go, but it’s still verra good.
They are REALLY FUCKING FUN live. There are only three of them, and all three of them sing and harmonize. It’s amazing how huge, how textured they sound with only a guitar, a bass and a conventional drum set. I was also shocked at how good the lead singer, Matthew Caws, sounded live. He has a somewhat reedy voice, and if there’s one thing The Flaming Lips has taught me, it’s that these types of voices can go very, very, very badly flat during a live performance. Then James Mercer of The Shins restored my faith in reedy-voiced boys performing flawlessly while live. I wasn’t sure how Caws was going to do, but as it turned out, he performed beautifully, and it wasn’t until the very last song that he hit a couple of false notes. The show, overall, actually sounded better than their albums, and I haven’t seen too many bands who perform even better live than they do in a studio. PJ Harvey and Blur come immediately to mind, but not many others.
My favorite part of the show was when they sang this random song about a kitten. In flawless three-part harmony. The chorus, literally, was “Meow meow meow meow meow meow meow.” Partway through one of the last choruses, and for no particular reason, Caws broke off and did a Milton impression (“Uh, excuse me, I believe you have my stapler”).
And Caws has totally made my “Men I want to lick” list. Short, skinny, funny, sweet-faced, AND he likes Office Space. I’m in love, baby.
Anyway, if you like The Shins, Built to Spill, Arcade Fire, Grandaddy, The Flaming Lips and/or Death Cab for Cutie (random tangent: I don’t know what it is about DCFC that makes me want to go Joe Pesci on the lead singer every time I hear his voice, but DEAR GOD I HATE THIS BAND and I don’t even know how I’m allowed to like indie music without lurrrrving DCFC but seriously? I want to stick sharp ballpoint pens into the lead singer’s throat, that’s how much I can’t stand his voice, which is weird because other singers with similar voices don’t give me pause AT ALL) and anyway, end of DCFC hateration, back to pimping Nada Surf. Give them a chance. They are excellent and underrated. If you want some samples, check out their videos.
Sorry this has nothing to do with romance novels or trashy fiction. Does the fact that i’m picturing myself doing unspeakable, dirty things to Matthew Caws count as being somewhat peripherally related to romances? Or the fact that I’m kind of depressed that you won’t find somebody similar to him (short, dorky, funny, not afraid to act silly for the sake of comedy) in a mainstream romance novel because many romance readers seem to prefer their heroes tall, dark, muscularly be-titted, and not averse to smacking the heroine around?
Yeah, didn’t think so. But if I introduce one other person to the joy of Nada Surf, I’ll consider this space well wasted.
Update: Oh my God. I just found out that Third Eye Blind are still around. There is no God.
Update to Update: Oh fuck me, so is Tonic. AND THEY HAVE A MYSPACE PAGE. There is a God. A cruel, merciless one who revels in the suffering of His creations.