By the time a band gets to its eighth album – and 20+ years down the line – the temptation to be glib or blasé about a new album is strong. New York’s Nada Surf have built a career on life affirming indie-pop, riding a wave of cult longevity with a steady stream of releases and no extended hiatus. 2010’s covers album If I Had a Hi-Fi seemed a little like a line in the sand – as these things often are – but the addition of Guided By Voices’ Doug Gillard for 2012’s The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy seemed to provide a late career boost for a band who never quite broke through into wider notice.
Kicking things off with a song as good as ‘Cold To See Clear’, accompanied by a video We Are Scientists would be proud of, is proof they can still do things right. A stone-cold indie disco classic in the making, the strident beat and Matthew Caws’ airy vocals are a winning combination. The question then is how the next nine tracks are going to follow it. The answer is, they struggle; they struggle in the way that the rest of Let it Bleed struggles to follow ‘Gimme Shelter’. Still, they cool it off on ‘Believe You’re Mine’, taking it down a notch and letting harmonies and their trademark jangly guitar blend and build to a rousing chorus. ‘New Bird’ is straight off the American Pie soundtrack – the scene where the geeky hero has just gotten laid – and on ‘Animal’ Caws does his best Bob Dylan impression – if he’d lent his voice to Fountains of Wayne. Dan Wilson from Semisonic co-wrote two songs after the album was all but ready to go and the addition of those collaborations, including final track ‘Victory’s Yours’, serves as a euphoric curtain closer.
This is a very comfortable record, a snug jumper, a worn out armchair, the regular holiday at the seaside every summer. It’s unlikely to change their commercial fortunes but for those already on (surf) board, YKWYA will hit you in the nadas.