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Last Night: Nada Surf at Studio A


John Hood

Nada Surf

Monday, June 2, 2008

Studio A, Miami

Better Than: Letting Leonard Cohen’s bubblegum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight.

I’m not supposed to dig Nada Surf. Their songs are sentimental, sometimes sappy even, drenched in despair, cuddled by consolation and stricken in all kinds of love. I mean, do I look like someone who pulls petals off daisies?

But even the hardest-hearted hoodlum’s got a little sap in him, a soft spot that bores bright through his inner core, and I’m exceptionally no exception. Yes, I touch (even as I’m touched), yes, I feel (despite the numb skull), and yes, last night I dug Nada Surf.

So there.

Which is to say, I’m not apologizing for anything, and neither are Nada Surf. Nor should they. It takes a lotta guts to get out on stage, night after night, in city after city, and bare your heart to the cold, hard world. And these cats got guts, all right – and talent.

Singer/guitarist Matthew Caws doesn’t just have the perfect indie pop voice, he’s got the perfect pop voice, warm and revealing, yet brittle to the point of breaking, he swoops through a melody as if the song depends upon it.

And, of course, they do, from the open road sting of “Hi-Speed Soul” which kick-started their set through the hopeful hurt of “Always Love” that helped close the show, he sings the songs that makes the whole world sing along.

In fact, Caws insists. Encouraging the crowd to hum with him to the airy end of “Weightless” and asking by “Whose Authority” will they dare remain silent. Sometimes, like with the bright and shiny “Inside Love,” he even goes two steps further, getting everyone to soul-slide back and forth for the verse, and then to raise their hands and clap through the chorus.

Yet even without Caws good-natured prompting, it’s a cinch those there to see Nada Surf would be getting into the swing of his sing. The cat’s a natural, and he’s absolutely, positively infectious.

I’m talkin’ smart pop, dig? – the kinda keen ear candy that comes from Nick Lowe by way of Teenage Fanclub. Indeed, I’d even call it ultra-smart pop, which I’m sure is due in large part to the fact that Caws is the son of academics and bassist Lorca is descendant of a diplomat (and both were Lycee Francais boys). But with Queens-born drummer Ira Elliot on traps, it’s smart pop that beats the heart right into you. After all, the stickman’s a former Fuzztone.

If I had to sum up last night’s stand, I’d say it was akin to listening live AM radio, albeit AM radio in, of and from a more perfect universe. And that, my friend, is a guilty pleasure I’m always happy to indulge.

Personal Bias: Like I implied, I’ve got a soft spot for heart songs.

Random Detail: Three over-sized fish-eye mirrors, planted on posts behind the band, gave the proceedings a decidedly thieving view.

By the Way: Kansas City’s own Republic Tigers opened the show with a sound that combined some quite nice Thrills-like harmonies and a kinda quiet epicism. Check ‘em out.

- John Hood

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John Hood

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