Nada Surf – Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
Review by Jack Foley
NADA Surf’s sixth studio album Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy is a rip-roaring return that plays to the band’s strengths while self-consciously keeping one eye on recreating their live energy.
That is to say, snappy guitar riffs of a sun-drenched, occasionally retro-leaning variety providing the backdrop for melodic songs about life, love and the usual. Lyrically, it sounds more like a coming-of-age record, with several musings on how life changes as people get older.
But the same sense of laidback enjoyment that came from hearing past albums such as 2007’s Lucky remains intact and there are several anthemic moments that belie the band’s New York roots. That is to say, they could just as easily hail from America’s West Coast or London’s Abbey Road.
Admittedly, the album gets off to an innocuous start with Clear Eye Clouded Mind but quickly delivers its first classic in Waiting For Something, a chiming, beautifully delivered, even breezy slice of REM-meets-Byrds alt-rock. The chorus is a belter, ripe for singing along to on those days when you, yourself, are waiting for something.
When I Was Young, the track which follows, is beautiful in a different way. A slower tempo, more intricate riff work and a less falsetto vocal ruefully reflects on lyrics such as “when I was young I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up, when I grew up I wonder what was that world I was dreaming of”. It’s the sort of song Gomez specialise in.
Jules And Jim opens with a guitar into that hails from the ‘60s and immediately works its way into your heart, reminding you of why the classic sound of rock ‘n’ roll is never dead (contrary to some headlines), while delivering the kind of tale of young love and American life that Fountains of Wayne specialise in.
And The Moon Is Calling repeats the trick with some crisp, lively, rousing guitar work and an energy that fully goes towards tapping into that live energy. It sends you into quite a head-spin of revelry.
Teenage Dreams is another song that reflects on the gap between maturity and youth and the things that happen in between. It unfolds against the backdrop of a thumping back-beat and some brash riffs, while delivering its thought-provoking observations and defiant mission statement that it’s never too late for teenage dreams.
Elsewhere, Let The Fight Do The Fighting slows down the tempo once more to quality effect… a soft set of vocals from Matthew Caws offering a peaceful alternative to an often violent world, while Byrds-like riffs create a meaningful backdrop.
No Snow On The Mountain is another barnstormer… a blow out the cobwebs slice of rousing rock that contains a cracking vitality, while The Future ends things in suitably epic fashion with more musings on the future and how it’s made of dust.
Nada Surf have been criticised in some quarters for sticking to formula and failing to show much sign of progression. But when they’re making music this good and inspiring, you really hope that some things don’t change too dramatically.
This is a shining star in the rock ‘n’ roll astronomy that only looks to become brighter with age.
Watch behind-the-scenes footage of Nada Surf playing acoustic and chatting about the LP:
Download picks: Waiting For Something, When I Was Young, Jules And Jim, Teenage Dreams, No Snow On The Mountain, Let The Fight Do The Fighting