Yes, we may be in the year 2003. But everywhere you look on MTV or modern rock radio, shades of the mid-90s are everywhere haunting us, reminding us the mistake we made by supporting the artists of this now obsolete era in the first place. It’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between Creed and Candlebox, or Nickelback and Seven Mary Three. Weezer are still hanging around, albeit a shell of their collective former self. Superdrag made a career out of “Who Sucked out the Feeling?” that lasted until the band broke up a couple of months ago, an incredible feat for a one-hit wonder. The same can be said for Nada Surf, who amazingly are back with a second wind and a new album.
The sad part of it all is that there is nothing to be found on Let Go, Nada Surf’s third album, that didn’t die out almost a decade ago. Sure, the band may be on upper-tier indie label Barsuk now, and they might be more akin to texturing their songs with multiple layers of instruments (surely the influence of sharing labels with Death Cab for Cutie), but underneath it all is the same ordinary rock that was once cutting-edge, now relegated to Coors Light commercials (see: “Hi-Speed Soul”).
None of the songs on Let Go pass for even a fraction of memorable—after repeated listens there still aren’t any melodies that stick out. “Blonde on Blonde”, for example, tries to be touching and instead just drags on. “Cats and dogs are coming down / 14th St. is gonna drown / Everyone else rushin’ round / I’ve got Blonde on Blonde on my portable stereo / It’s a lullabye from a giant golden radio.” The lyrics rely on 8th grade symbolism and blatant name-dropping, but in the end they still can’t hide the fact that the song is just boring. Nada Surf must love the loping pace “Blonde on Blonde” walks along, however, because the band alternates between “rockers” and songs that follow the same formula as “Blonde on Blonde” (minus the Bob Dylan references).
I will give credit where it’s due, and “Treading Water” is a diamond in the rough. It’s the only song that attempts energetic and actually finds it. Still, one out of twelve isn’t nearly good enough to warrant giving Let Go a chance, unless you’re actually looking for a mid-90s alterna-lite revival. Otherwise, ignore all of the hype that has come with the band’s drop to the indies and second rise to popularity. Like our faithful leader Dubbya says, “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me tw— …can’t get fooled again.”