Nada Surf: If I Had a Hi-Fi
Forever a tribute band
On their sixth album, Nada Surf repurposes a dozen songs from inside and outside pop music’s canon. Covers, of course, are always fraught with peril, and at times singer/guitarist Matthew Caws’ inflection has a way of fermenting the source material’s latent cheese. On the synth-less “Enjoy the Silence,” he over-enunciates some of Depeche Mode’s most ironically banal lyrics: “Words are meaningless / And forgettable.” But on “Love and Anger,” a ballad originally energized by Kate Bush’s octave-bending trill, he belts the melody to better effect. The appropriation of other people’s words works best on “Agony of Lafitte,” Spoon’s 2000 mock-rock vendetta against a turncoat at Elektra Records; the same label long ago dropped Nada Surf, it’s been said, for failing to manufacture the molded, Weezer-soundalike singles of their early career. The upshot of that rejection was the trio developing a style less bratty and more serene, but nonetheless derivative. Maybe they’ve always been a tribute band.