I Meant To Listen To: Nada Surf, “High/Low”

As I am writing this, tomorrow will be Labor Day – the unofficial end to summer. School is back in session. Students are moving to their college dorms, and many renters are finding new places to live. It’s a weekend where unwanted IKEA furniture and cumbersome boxsprings unable to fit up a stairwell are left to die on city sidewalks, and here in Boston, many a first-time moving truck driver will learn what a Storrowing is.

Having no school during the summer was always the best. It always had a faint sense of lawlessness, you know? As long as my sister or I didn’t burn the house down, why bother my parents by telling them what we were up to? It was the 90’s so cellphones were a luxury item(and were the size and weight of a cinder block), so if your friends weren’t home by the telephone, your option was to hop on your bicycle and find them.

My friends and I were an adventurous sort. You could find us by the lake, either swimming or fishing or skipping stones. Perhaps we were in the woods reading comic books at our precariously made tree fort. There was even a good chance we were down by the park playing a game of baseball with all the neighborhood kids.

Just kidding. We didn’t do any of that. We were all at home watching TV.

No school and having the house to ourselves with no parental supervision meant only two things: The Price Is Right and MTV.

This was during the fabled golden years of MTV where they played music videos. It was amazing and all was right in the world. Again, just kidding. Most of the videos sucked, let’s be honest. What everyone tends to forget, is that MTV mostly played the same 25 videos in constant rotation. But, we were only kids, so we just continued to watch anyways. Kids are stupid like that. When the option was presented to either go outside and read a book or watch Mariah Carey swinging on a swing in the video for “Always Be My Baby“? I had no issues telling Maniac Magee to hit the bricks.

That summer, a music video in particular grabbed my attention. It was for the song “Popular”, by the band Nada Surf. The lyrics, besides the chorus, are taken from a dating and etiquette guide for teens that was released in the 60’s and are delivered in a spoken word fashion. The delivery is borderline off-putting, and the video is stylistically very 90’s. It rules, and since you have one day left of summer before school starts, you should watch the video a dozen times to catch up.

About a year or so after that summer, I got my hands on the album High/Low. In true fashion, I only listened to “Popular” and really didn’t think much of it until recently.

High/Low sounds very much like it’s time, and that is not at all a bad thing. While listening to this album, I read that Nada Surf was a described nerd-rock band, and I disagree. Not on this record. Just because it wasn’t heavy or grungy or pop-punk-ish, it isn’t nerdy. High/Low is a fabulous rock album that belonged in that catch-all genre we all love: Alternative. I really likened this album to one I wrote about a few months ago and also grew to love, Girls Against Boys’, Venus Luxure No.1 Baby.

Due to the *ahem* popularity of “Popular” most people also unkindly gave Nada Surf another label. It’s pretty unfair to call Nada Surf a one-hit wonder. I personally feel like that sort of label should be placed on those artists who had a song that was everywhere and then just vanish. You just cannot say that about Nada Surf as they are still releasing records and playing shows all across the country.

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